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Pilot reported engine issues before plane crash in Novi neighborhood

Emergency personnel inspect the remains of a small plane crash, in Novi, May 12, 2024. (David Guralnick / The Detroit News/TNS)

The pilot of a single-engine, World War II replica airplane reported engine issues before crash-landing in a residential Novi neighborhood Sunday evening, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The pilot, a 71-year-old Northville resident, was the plane’s sole occupant and walked away from the crash with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Novi Police Sergeant Mark Boody. The plane crashed into a wooded area near homes on the 21000 block of Cambridge around 6:40 p.m. There were no fires or injuries on the ground, Boody said.

Both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash, although the NTSB will be in charge.

“Preliminary information indicates the airplane departed Canton-Plymouth-Mettetal Airport on a local flight and experienced a loss of engine power shortly after takeoff,” NTSB spokeswoman Jennifer Gabris wrote in an email. 

The airplane was a Titan T-51 Mustang registered to Northville resident Kenneth Sutton, according to the FAA registry. It was classified as an amateur-built, experimental plane, and the most recent certificate of aircraft registration was issued in May 2019. Kathryn Sutton is also listed as an owner.

Titan is an aircraft kit manufacturer based in Austinburg, Ohio, according to the company’s website. The company makes kits for the Titan T-51 Mustang, a three-quarter-scale replica of the P-51 Mustang, a fighter and bomber used by the U.S. military in World War II.

Kit aircraft are planes constructed by amateurs, according to the FAA.

While original P-51 Mustangs will cost millions of dollars, Titan T-51 replicas may be well under $100,000, according to the kit manufacturer’s website.

The P-51 Mustang is credited with helping the Allies establish air supremacy over Germany starting in 1944 after the British and American strategic bombing campaign had stalled, according to the National WWII Museum. The long-range fighter plane escorted bombers in and out of Germany, with its high speeds and six machine guns aiding in gaining control of the skies from German fighter planes. It also saw action in the Pacific Ocean theater against Japan and in Korea in 1950.

“The P-51 dominated air combat in Europe, destroying nearly 5,000 enemy aircraft,” according to the National WWII Museum. “It was also a very capable fighter-bomber and could carry 1,000 pounds of bombs and rockets. … The P-51 remains the iconic fighter of World War II, and it is a popular plane among Veterans and enthusiasts alike.”


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