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Small plane crashes at RDU, injuring UNC professor and pilot

Paul Chelminski outside the Ambulatory Care Center where he sees patients at the Internal Medicine Clinic. Photo courtesy of UNC Health.

A UNC Air Operations medical plane carrying two people crashed in the grass near a runway at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Wednesday morning, injuring the pilot and passenger and delaying many other flights.

In a press release, RDU said the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were made aware of the incident, which occurred at about 10:10 a.m.

RDU also said the FAA’s ground stop — which prevents planes from leaving and coming into the airport temporarily — was lifted at about 11:30 a.m.

Alan Wolf, UNC Health director for local news and issues, said in an email statement that the passenger on the plane was Dr. Paul Chelminski, a UNC professor and internal medicine physician with UNC Health. He said Chelminski was taken to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill and is in good condition. Chelminski has since been been discharged this afternoon. 

Wolf said Chelminski was returning from Wilmington, where he gave a lecture to the medical staff at Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

The pilot, Art Johnson, who joined UNC in 2013, was taken to Duke University Hospital in Durham and is in fair condition.

“Our thoughts are with their families and loved ones, and we’re grateful to the first responders who helped following the accident,” Wolf said in the statement.

Sarah Taylor Sulick, public affairs specialist at NTSB, said in an email that the organization is working with the FAA to collect information on the crash of the Socata TBM 700 airplane. Witness statements, she said, indicate the plane may have crashed after a missed approach to the runway.

Sulick said in an email that the wreckage is being moved to an offsite facility for further examination. 

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