A 72-year-old Placentia man was critically injured Wednesday when the plane he was piloting crashed into a field near an airport in Upland, officials said.
Officials had not officially identified the victim. But the plane is owned by Steven Lund and a friend identified him as a military veteran who flew dangerous helicopter missions in Vietnam.
The single-engine Storch FL-156C crashed under unknown circumstances after taking off from Cable Airport around 10 a.m., said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
"I hope he's OK. He's a very good man," said Anna Boosalis, the victim's neighbor. "He helps veterans. He's just an amazing person all the way around."
The plane is a replica of a German reconnaissance World War II plane.
Another neighbor said that after the Vietnam War, Lund worked as a pilot for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
"He would fly between San Diego and LA tracking drug smugglers," said John Morris.
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A witness said it sounded like there was engine trouble before the plane went down.
"A couple people came and told us after the crash that they heard the plane," said Ernie Acuna, who works nearby. "The engine just stopped."
Brenden Boosalis says he has flown with Lund twice in this plane.
"His vintage plane is like one out of 12 in the world," Brenden Boosalis said. "He built it himself."
Neighbors say the plane has swastikas because it is a replica.
They also say this is the second time Lund has survived a crash.
"He's a man of steel," Anna Boosalis. "He will be fine."