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Pilots Survive Crash Landing Same Cargo Company Involved In Fatal Accident Two Years Ago

The pilot and co-pilot of a Salair cargo plane walked away from a crash landing Thursday night just west of Spokane International Airport.

The twin-engine Convair 440 was making an emergency approach to the airport shortly before 7 p.m. when it landed in a plowed field just west of Hayford Road, about a mile from the runway, authorities said.

Almost two years ago, a Salair pilot and co-pilot were killed in a crash on takeoff from the Spokane airport.

On Thursday, the ‘50s-vintage, propeller-driven plane apparently ran out of fuel. It skidded on its belly and spun around. A gaping hole was ripped in the fuselage behind the cockpit. One propeller was missing.

The pilot was identified as Paul Salerno, 40, co-owner of the Spokane-based cargo company.

Salerno and the co-pilot, who was not identified, climbed out of the wreckage and initially refused treatment for what appeared to be minor injuries, said sheriff’s Deputy Dave Morris. After being interviewed by emergency workers they were taken to Deaconess Medical Center for a checkup, Morris said.

The plane left Phoenix at about 1:30 p.m. and was carrying little if any cargo, authorities said.

On its approach to Spokane, Salerno contacted air-traffic controllers at the regional flight control center in Auburn, Wash., and reported an undetermined fuel problem, according to the FAA.

Word was radioed to the air traffic control tower in Spokane and emergency crews were put on alert, said Steve Osterdahl, manager of the Spokane tower.

Airport firefighters and rescue workers were waiting on Runway 3 when the plane made its approach.

Salerno told authorities afterward that the fuel gauge indicated there was still 1,200 pounds of fuel on board. But the pilot suspected the gauge may have been faulty and the plane actually ran out of fuel, Morris said.

Sheriff’s deputies and other emergency workers took control of the crash site and were waiting late Thursday for FAA investigators to examine the wreckage.

In March 1994, a Salair pilot and co-pilot were killed when a company-owned DC-3 crashed shortly after takeoff on a parcel delivery from Spokane to Portland.

The pilot in that early morning crash apparently lost control after one engine failed. The airplane hit the ground about a half mile from the runway.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator could not determine the cause of that crash because fire destroyed most of the evidence.

The Convair 440, built between 1955 and 1958, was designed to serve as either a passenger or cargo airplane. It’s slightly larger than the DC-3.

Salerno and his brother started Salair Inc. in 1980.

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The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Mike Prager Staff writer Staff writer Tom Sowa contributed to this report.