HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The father of the pilot whose plane crashed during take-off at Central Jersey Airport Tuesday was a legendary aviator and instructor who washed and polished airplanes in exchange for flying lessons at Hadley Airport in South Plainfield, learning to fly before the Depression years.
The pilot involved in Tuesday's crash was identified by Hillsborough Police and the Federal Aviation Administration as Joe Gubernat, 64, of Lebanon Township, whose father, Casmir "Cas" Gubernat, a longtime resident of central Jersey, died in 2002 at the age of 84.
The single-engine aircraft identified by Federal Aviation Administration investigators as a Furlong LOU CA-6 - a ightweight experimental sports plane - crashed in Sacred Heart Cemetery along the property line adjacent to Central New Jersey Regional Airport around 5 p.m. Tuesday as Gubernat attempted to take off, according to Joe Horner, owner of the airport, formerly known as Kupper Airport - where the elder Gubernat worked as an inspector and flying instructor after World War II ended.
Gubernat was able to unstrap his seat harness and slithered out of the plane. He was transported to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick with minor injuries.
"Just a bump on the head, that's about it," Horner said. There were no passengers in the plane. "To walk away from a crash like that, you're very lucky," he added.
The plane clipped a chain link fence along the property line with its fixed landiing gear and nose dived into the ground, flipping the plane over. A huge gouge was left in the ground where the propellor hit, forcing the plane to tip over, according to bystanders.
The crash occurred in a remote section of the cemetery towards the rear of the property, hundreds of yards distant from any grave sites.
The elder Gubernat was born in Newark and lived in South Plainfield before moving to Dunellen.
When World War II erupted, he signed a contract with the Naval Air Force to be a civilian aviation instructor, according to his obituary.:
"He already had thousands of hours in the air and his instructional skills enabled him to teach naval aviation cadets to fly. As the war progressed he switched his flying abilities to the U.S. Army Air Corps. He ferried aircraft from the U.S. to European air bases.
"After the war ended, he remained in the Air Corps and brought hundreds of G.I.s from Europe back to the U.S. for about a year. He was an inspector and flying instructor at Kupper Airport in Manville. He was also a private pilot for Rawson Motors in Plainfield and owned G & S Auto Sales in Plainfield."
Horner said he's been told that the elder Gubernat was highly-respected by his aviation peers. "His name was big around here in the '60s, '70s, '80s." Horner said.
The obituary also mentioned the elderGubernat was a member of the Quiet Birdman (QBs) pilots' organization and the American Legion Post of Dunellen. He was a member of St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Dunellen.
He died at the Home for Veterans in Menlo Park/Edison.
Responding to the crash were Hillsborough Police, Hillsborough Fire Units Station 37 and 38, Hillsborough Office of emergency Management, Robert Wood Johnson Rescue Squad, Somerset County Hazmat, Manville Police Department and Hillsborough Fire Safety.
FAA investigators arrived after 7:30 p.m. to begin their probe into the crash. The damaged aircraft was removed on a flatbed truck to a hangar at the adjacent airport, according to Horner.
Horner said the plane was based at Vansant Airport in Erwinna, Pa., 29 miles directly west of the airport in Hillsborough. Horner said it was the type of plane that could be built by a hobbyist inside of an airplane hangar. or garage.
The plane was largely intact following the crash. Pieces of the wing tip were scattered in front of the engine, which was crumpled from the impact.
The airport is located at 1034 Millstone River Road.
This was the second crash at the small airport in less than a year.
In September 2019, a single-engine Cessna 172 plane crashed into the treetops along the south side of the Manville Causeway around noon on its approach to the runway.
The pilot, identified as a 33-year-old Somerset County resident, told authorities the plane’s engine had stalled, forcing him to land in the wooded area short of the runway an estimated 70-75 feet in the air,
There were no other passengers.
He was uninjured and managed to make a call on his cell phone to report the incident; he remained trapped in the trees for nearly four hours until rescue personnel using a bucket lift truck from a landscaping company were able to remove him from the plane.
Aerial photos and video from news helicopters showed the plane intact, sitting on top of the tree canopy supported by the tree limbs.