Plane crash on Concord Streets, pilot killed

Berkeley pilot dies in plane crash on Concord streets

Plane crash on Concord Streets, pilot killed
The plane crashed at the intersection of Concord Ave. and Diamond Blvd. late Tuesday morning. (Ken Barton photo)

CONCORD, CA (Feb. 4, 2024) — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) didn’t find anything “catastrophic” with the airplane upon examining the wreckage of a fatal crash near the intersection of Diamond Boulevard and Concord Avenue on Jan. 30.

Scott Johnson said his crew has completed its initial review of the wreckage and its fuel system. They will release the preliminary report of the incident within 30 days.

The crash claimed the life of Jacek Romanski, 75, of Berkeley, a common figure around Buchanan Field Airport. He died in his homebuilt Van’s Aircraft RV-6 single-engine plane about 10:30 a.m. Jan. 30 just outside the southside perimeter fencing of the airport and nearby Buchanan Golf Course.

On the day of his death, Romanski did what he so often loved to do – touch and go maneuvers.

“What he was doing was legal but stupid,” said Peter Friedman of Pleasant Hill. “This is what gave him pleasure.”

Friedman, who said he had done a number of inspections on Romanski’s aircraft over the years, emphasized that Romanski was a skillful pilot.

“That engine was not designed to do what he had a habit of doing with the aircraft,” Friedman said. “You don’t go around the airport like he was doing. He stayed in the traffic pattern and put on an air show.”

Crash was ‘avoidable’

Recounting how Romanski enjoyed the thrill of stall turns and steep turns, Friedman said: “It was just the wrong airplane to be doing it in. I told him that for years.”

According to Friedman, the plane was built to take off, reach altitude and just cruise – “travel in it and go from point A to point B.”

The touch and go maneuver that Romanski liked to do at Buchanan Field Airport involved descending at 500 feet per minute and getting down right to the runway. Then he would immediately take off and do a snap turn. If no other planes needed the airspace, the tower would permit Romanski to proceed.

Friedman noted that Romanski would do it for an hour or two.

“It just caught up with him, and I am sorry to see that,” Friedman said, calling the crash “absolutely avoidable.”

The Minneapolis-based FlightAware website confirmed the flying behavior of the aircraft that Romanski operated after he took off at 10:17 a.m. from Buchanan Field Airport, according to spokesperson Kathleen Bangs.

Traffic grinds to a halt

The crash scene created a traffic nightmare for motorists. Drivers faced snarls as they navigated that side of Concord entering or exiting I-680. Thoroughfares around the site of the wreckage remained closed through mid-afternoon the next day.

Concord resident John McDonough, who was enroute home from St. Catherine of Siena School in Vallejo, exited the freeway about 3:45 p.m. Jan. 30 and found himself in the traffic slog.

“I just inched down Contra Costa Boulevard until I reached a parking lot in Pleasant Hill and pulled over to try to get on my Zoom call,” McDonough said.

A vehicle struck when the aircraft crashed sustained minor damage. The driver received treatment at a local hospital, according to ConFire.

A final report to determine the crash’s probable cause, including contributing factors, will take 12 to 24 months, said NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson.

David Scholz
David Scholz

David Scholz is back in journalism as a freelance writer and photographer after nearly two decades in education. Prior to moving into teaching in 2000, he worked as a full-time journalist since 1988 for rural community and small daily newspapers in Central Ohio and Northern Nevada, and later in California with The Business Journal in Fresno and dailies in the Bay Area, including The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle. More recently Scholz also worked in an editing, writing, and page layout role with the Rossmoor News.