A Soviet-era biplane that was used by a Cuban pilot to defect from his country to South Florida last month crashed Monday afternoon while government-contracted pilots were in the process of transporting it to another location, according to federal officials.
The two pilots were flying the Russian-built Antonov An-2 plane in Southwest Miami-Dade County, near the Collier County line, when they experienced mechanical problems and tried to land it on a dirt road, said Michael Silva, spokesman with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The plane flipped over when it touched down, Silva said, adding that the two pilots were able to get out of the plane without injuries. The plane’s destination was not immediately known Monday afternoon.
The plane made international headlines when it touched down at the Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport off Tamiami Trail, about 50 miles west of Miami in the middle of the Everglades, on Oct. 21. The pilot told U.S. authorities that he was defecting from Cuba. He said he works for a Cuban state domestic flight charter company, and flew the plane from Sancti Spiritus in Central Cuba — a roughly 270-mile, one-way trip.
“It’s the same plane,” Silva noted.
Days later, the story took another twist when a Keys flats fishing guide provided a video he took of the plane flying merely feet above the Atlantic Ocean just offshore of the island chain, buzzing boats as it made its way to the mainland.
When it crashed Monday around 1:30 p.m. about 10 miles west of Opa-Locka West Airport, six Miami-Dade Fire Rescue units responded to the scene, said Andrea Rudchenco, a spokeswoman with the department..
Both people aboard the fallen aircraft were rescued and didn’t sustain any injuries, according to Miami-Dade police.
Live video from CBS Miami’s Chopper 4 showed the aircraft upside down in the middle of a field.
The National Transportation Safety Board is now the lead agency investigating the crash, Silva said.
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