Pilot walks from plane crash

NEW MARKET – A Harrisonburg man remains hospitalized after he suffered injuries in a plane crash Sunday afternoon in Shenandoah County.

The Virginia State Police received a report of a plane crash near the New Market Airport at 3:20 p.m., according to public information officer Sgt. F.L. “Les” Tyler. The pilot and sole occupant, identified as Robert Stephen Sholtes, 87, of Harrisonburg, suffered injuries in the crash.

Emergency responders took Sholtes by ambulance to Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital, Tyler stated. Sholtes then was transferred to a UVA Health System hospital, where he remains in stable and fair condition, Alex Prevost, a representative of UVA Health System’s marketing department, said Monday afternoon.

Airport owner and manager Robert Thomas said Monday that Sholtes, an avid pilot, rents a hangar at the facility. Sholtes attempted to land on the runway but struck some trees and crashed on the airport property. Photographs of the crash site show the plane ended up close to railroad tracks.

“He walked out of the wreckage after the crash so it can’t be too bad,” Thomas said. “He’s gonna be fine but he’s still in the hospital.”

The Federal Aviation Administration stated Monday that the 1939 Boeing Stearman crashed west of the runway at the airport. Police described the plane as a fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft.

State police and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the incident to determine what led to the crash.

The private airport lies about two miles west of New Market, according to information provided by the FAA. The airport covers 44 acres and has a single runway.

The last plane crash at the airport occurred several years ago, Thomas recalled. The pilot tried to land but the runway lights didn’t work at the time, he said, adding that the plane ran off the runway.

The airport’s Facebook page notes that the public-use facility serves primarily aviation for the areas around New Market and as the base for Blue Ridge Skydiving Adventures.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com