November 8, 2004
The single-engine plane was part of Russell Allen’s retirement dream. The 57-year-old Southwest Airlines captain from Mesa was going to use it for Alaska fishing trips with his wife and grandchildren, said Richard Hall, fellow member of the Arizona wing of the Commemorative Air Force.
Saturday, the Piper Super Cub crashed after taking off from Mesa’s Falcon Field Municipal Airport as Allen gave a charity ride as part of the annual Veterans Day Fly-In for the organization.
Allen was killed, police said. The passenger, Robert Pirtle, a 42-year-old aircraft mechanic from Mesa, was flown to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital, where he was in critical condition Sunday. Pirtle’s mother, Karen Pirtle of Mesa, said he has a long recovery, but that it’s a miracle her son came through. He’s in the intensive care unit with a head injury and a broken wrist.
The plane took off from the airport’s far north runway at 12:30 p.m., then nose-dived in the middle of its climb, crashing into two air tankers.
The crash remains under investigation.