Pilot injured in Roxbury crash landing of vintage plane
By Dick Sanford
A retired Air Force pilot, flying a vintage WWII trainer, crashed in a field just off the North Montgomery Hollow Road in the Town of Roxbury early Friday afternoon when bad weather and low fuel forced the pilot to make an attempt to land on a short grass runway.
Pilot James P. Leavalle, 45, of Mentor, OH suffered a serious head laceration and a minor hairline fracture in one spinal disk in his neck in the crash. He was transported to Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown by helicopter where he was admitted and treated. He has since been released from the hospital.
Leavalle was flying a North American twin-seat AT-6C single-engine, fixed-wing airplane made in 1943. The airplane, an advanced trainer, suffered serious damage.
According to a statement issued by state police, Leavelle had departed Lost Nations Airfield in Ohio at approximately 11 a.m. and was headed to Columbia County Airport near Hudson when he observed bad weather. At the same time his fuel began to run low and he decided to land on a grass runway just off South Montgomery Road, a field where he had previously landed.
Leavelle told police his attempt to land was unsuccessful due to too much speed and wet ground and that he then tried to take off and attempt a second approach.
Departing the field he struck the tops of three trees and clipped a power line, causing the plane to lose speed. The airplane then crash-landed in a small field off North Montgomery Hollow where the plane proceeded into a tree line and struck a large maple.
The airplane suffered considerable damage including having its radial engine torn from its mounts coming to rest on the ground.
Several witnesses saw the airplane circle the Roxbury area in its attempt to land and at least one witness saw the airplane disappear behind trees after its failed attempt to land on the grass strip.
A 911 call brought Roxbury Firemen and state police to the scene.
Roxbury Firemen secured the airplane and removed the conscious pilot from the plane. Jaws of Life was used to remove the plane’s canopy and extricate Leavelle who was bleeding heavily from his head wound.
The airplane was secured at the scene and later towed from the scene by Sanford Auto of Arkville. Police say the pilot told them that he plans to have the plane repaired.
According to the James Leavalle Air Shows Facebook page the pilot enlisted in the Air Force and spent the first seven years of his career as a crew chief on F-4 Phantoms and F-16s. He earned a Bachelor’s in Aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and was chosen for pilot training. Upon earning his wings, he was chosen to fly the A-10 Thunderbolt II or “Warthog” as it is affectionately known.
On his way to flying over 2,500 hours in the Warthog, he made six combat deployments to the Middle East including four to Iraq and two to Afghanistan with the 172nd Fighter Squadron, 110th Fighter Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard. MAJ Leavelle’s decorations include five Air Medals.
He accumulated over 6,000 hours of flying time and has experience in aircraft as diverse as the T-37, T-38, A-10, B-17, B-25, WACO, Luscombe, Cub, Mustang, L-39, Stearman, Extra, various corporate jets, and the T-6. He began flying the T-6 on the air show circuit in 2011.