BROOKSVILLE - A student pilot and a certified flight instructor crashed when the front tire broke off a Cessna 172/M Skyhawk as they were landing Friday morning at Brooksville Tampa Bay Regional Airport.
Observers speculated heavy side winds along the runway might have contributed to the incident, which occurred at about 10:45 a.m., causing the plane to bounce during landing and snapping off the wheel.
When the wheel came off, the plane nose-dived into the runway, damaging the propeller, airport employees said.
The Federal Aviation Administration was investigating the mishap.
The plane's propeller was twisted and scratched, both wing tips were damaged and one pilot door was broken open. American Aviation staff said neither pilot was injured in the crash.
Both pilots, who flew to Brooksville from a Miami-area flight school, declined to speak with a news reporter.
The plane was a total loss, airport staff said.
Responders said the situation could have been far worse, particularly if the front wheel had come off of a heavier plane.
Fire crews cleared the scene before airport and county staffers towed the plane back to the hangar.
Hernando County Fire Rescue established a new communication procedure with the airport tower in December, according to a Hernando County news release Friday.
"Today is the first time the plan was used during a real emergency," said Assistant Chief Kevin Carroll. "The Brooksville tower was monitoring the channel, so when our crews were responding to the scene and needed more information, they were able to talk directly to the airport tower to get real-time updates and request additional resources if necessary."
Reporter Wendy Joan Biddlecombe contributed to this report.