A Miami business owner who slammed his powerful single-engine airplane nose first into a northeast Oklahoma turnpike had reported problems with the home-built aircraft and had only owned it for about a year, his wife said Tuesday.


AP — A Miami business owner who slammed his powerful single-engine airplane nose first into a northeast Oklahoma turnpike had reported problems with the home-built aircraft and had only owned it for about a year, his wife said Tuesday.

Clair Tromsness, 72, still was trying to familiarize himself with the plane, modeled after a World War II-era fighter, when he took it for a quick test flight Monday in the sunny skies over Miami, his wife, Florence Tromsness, told The Associated Press.

"He was really still trying to learn the plane," Florence Tromsness said from the couple's home in Quapaw. "He hadn't had a chance to fly it very much, and he'd been wanting to for the last several days."

Florence Tromsness said her husband had reported problems with the Turbine Legend since he purchased it about a year ago.

"It's been giving us trouble," she said. "It hasn't been completely finished."

No passengers were on board and no motorists were injured when the plane crashed in a fiery explosion Monday along the Will Rogers Turnpike near the Miami exit.

A witness reported seeing the plane sputtering and doing "flip-flops" in the air just before it crashed, said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. George Brown.

"I don't know if he was trying to merge into traffic and land this thing or if this is just the area that he had trouble in and went down," Brown said. "Area pilots said if this thing had engine trouble, it would fall rather than glide. It would go straight down."

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the crash, and it could be several weeks before a preliminary report is completed, said FAA spokesman Roland Herwig.

Clair Tromsness, a former English professor at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami, started Miami Missionary Tent Company in 1980. The company produces heavy-duty vinyl tents used for religious revivals and for the rental industry for weddings and parties.

Florence Tromsness said the couple started the company in the back of their Christian bookstore in Miami building tents for Christian missionaries to use in Paraguay.

"We started in the back room of our book store making the first 15 tents for that," Florence Tromsness said. "We didn't know if that would be the end of it."

After that, Florence Tromsness said her husband started researching tent companies and redesigned the materials used in the construction.

The couple's son, David, took over the business in the 1990s, but Florence Tromsness said her husband continued to take an active role in operations.

The couple, who moved from Miami to Quapaw about five years ago, has three children and four grandchildren.

 

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.