Flight center would honor family

SCOTT CITY — Heartbroken by the death of a friend and his family in the crash of a private plane, three western Kansas men are raising money to build a flight training and education center as a memorial.

Dylan Spencer, 35, of Scott City, was piloting a small plane when it crashed north of Topeka on April 22. His wife, Amy, 34, and their two daughters, 7-year-old Chase and 5-year-old Ansley, also died in the crash. They were on their way to visit Amy Spencer's family in northeastern Kansas to celebrate Easter.

The six-seat plane missed its first attempt for landing at Philip Billard Airport and circled around for a second attempt when it crashed. No final report has been issued on the cause, but a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board said witnesses saw the landing gear retract and the plane go back into the air before it went into a steep left turn and hit the ground, creating a deep crater.

Spencer — an experienced pilot — had been in contact with the airport's control tower, but there was no distress call.

"We don't know what happened. Whatever happened could have happened to me," said Brian Vulgamore, who is raising money with fellow flying enthusiast Andy Hineman and Scott Community Foundation director Ryan Roberts to create the Spencer Flight and Education Center at the Scott City Municipal Airport.

The center would feature a flight simulator that would allow pilots to train for situations that can't be replicated in the sky for safety reasons. Pilots or pilot students would be able to practice flying various aircraft in different locations in a variety of weather simulations. The center would have a classroom and library.

More than $100,000 has been pledged so far toward the project, which the men estimate will take $250,000 to get started. The proposal is for a 40-by-40-foot building to be built at the airport; if the project goes as planned, it could be finished by the end of the year, Hineman said.