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Feds may investigate plane fire at Allegheny County Airport

| Monday, July 25, 2016, 10:57 a.m.

Federal Aviation Administration officials will investigate a plane fire that burned a pilot and shut down Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin for more than an hour Monday.

The Yak-11 propeller airplane caught fire after landing on Runway 28 at the airport at 9:45 a.m., the FAA said in a written statement.

The pilot suffered burns to his body and face, and was taken to UPMC Mercy for treatment.

Authorities did not release information about the plane's origin, destination or the identity of the pilot.

Allegheny County Airport Authority officials confirmed the plane did not take off from the airport and did not file a flight plan with the airport.

The Yak plane — a Russian World War II-style aircraft painted in various blue shades with a large red Communist star — did not have any federal registration number on its tail. County officials referred inquiries about the plane's lack of a tail number to the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board.

FAA officials referred questions about the pilot to local authorities and said that they do not release owner registration information immediately after incidents that involve injuries or fatalities.

The pilot contacted the airport's tower when he was about 20 miles east of the airport, said Jeff Martinelli, Allegheny County Airport Authority's vice president for customer relations.

“At that point, he indicated that he was just going to land here,” Martinelli said. “There was no indication of any emergency situation whatsoever.”

FAA crews in the airport's control tower first noticed the plane was on fire shortly after it landed and notified the pilot, he said.

The pilot got out of the aircraft before emergency personnel arrived on scene.

West Mifflin No. 3 Volunteer Fire Company firefighters extinguished the fire, and the airport reopened by 11:15 a.m., Martinelli said.

Fire company officials referred questions to the authority.

The airport closed its full-time fire station in 2004 as a cost-cutting measure and in response to a change in FAA rules, which no longer required 24-hour fire stations on all airport grounds.

Allegheny County Airport is the seventh-busiest airport in Pennsylvania with nearly 60,000 takeoffs and landings per year, according to its website.

Michael Walton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at 412-380-5627 or mwalton@tribweb.com.

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