Residents of a quiet gated community on the outskirts of Marana, Arizona, were awakened Wednesday morning bythe deafening silence of an inflatable aircraft plummeting into the front yard of one of the homes, narrowly missing the house and a late-model used car in the driveway.
A resident who lived nearby was walking his dog when he captured the photo below. Moments later a committee from the Home Owners Association, armed with cameras and tape measures, arrived in an unmarked Buick Enclave to rope off and inspect the crash area. “It appeared there was only the pilot aboard,” said one of the committee members, who asked to remain anonymous, “It was impossible to tell for sure, but I saw only one body and it was horribly flattened.”
Terrorism was ruled out when an inspection revealed that the plastic fuselage showed no evidence of damage, which could have been caused by something as simple as a child-to-air missile such as an air rifle or lawn dart. We later learned that the inflatable plane was powered by one small fan in its cargo hold, and it was suggested the crash may have been caused by pilot error – such as accidentally turning off the power source.
A similar incident occurred almost exactly one year ago in the same neighborhood when an inflatable helicopter went down. The pilot was never identified. Jokingly, a curious onlooker quipped, “Maybe it was Santa taking a test flight in advance of Christmas eve. We know for a fact that Santa is inflatable.” A pilot and former flight instructor, who lives a few houses down from the crash scene told us, “I’ve been around aircraft of all kinds and flown many of them, but I have never seen anything like this. It’s quite an impractical design to start with. I doubt it could hold up at altitudes greater than ten feet, and speeds would be limited because of the inflatable propellers. No wonder it went down.”
A visibly irritated spokesperson for the Home Owners Association said they would be sending a letter out to the home owners involved, demanding they have the debris removed from the property within 24 hours, because one of the inflatable wings was too close to the common area sidewalk. The spokesperson said, “We understand this is an unfortunate tragedy, but rules are rules. Just as homeowners are required to trim shrubs back off the sidewalk, and pick up the mesquite pods, they must also remove debris from plane crashes.”