Propeller Cuts Student Pilot's Life Short

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating an accident involving a student pilot killed after he exited an airplane and was struck by the propeller.

The 26-year-old Chinese national, whose name is not being released until his family is notified, died Saturday at about 6:30 p.m. on the runway of Castle Airport. He was a student at the Sierra Academy of Aeronautics.

Merced County Sheriff's spokesman Tom MacKenzie said the student had flown to Visalia with another student, though neither was certified to fly with a passenger. When the students landed, he said they feared they had been seen by a fuel tank driver.

One fled on foot and the victim, in the co-pilot's seat, was walking around the plane to get in the pilot's seat when he was struck in the head by the propeller.

Rashid Yahya, the school's director of flight operations, told the Merced Sun-Star, "We are all very sad because we've never experienced this type of fatality."

Yahya said the victim was a good student and had no problems with his training.

There are about 200 students at the Sierra Academy of Aeronautics.

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