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Man dies in glider plane crash near Wickenburg

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office says the pilot of a glider plane has died in a failed takeoff in Aguila, Ariz., on Saturday afternoon.

A male pilot, identified as 61-year-old Robert Knauff, was being towed by a powered airplane to reach a proper gliding altitude when the tow rope became disconnected, according to MCSO officer Christopher Hegstrom.

After that point, it appears the pilot attempted a sharp turn and the plane stalled and then nosedived to the ground, Hegstrom said.

The crash happened about 50 yards from an airport, and Hegstrom said MCSO is still investigating what caused the cable to become disconnected while Knauff was about 100 feet in the air.

There were no other injuries. It was now known how many people were on board the airplane towing the glider.

Hegstrom said the area is popular with air gliders.

Hegstrom added that Knauff, who died at the scene, was a former commander of the New York Air National Guard and the registered owner of the aircraft.

Knauff assumed command of the Syracuse-based 174th Fighter Wing in 1996 and was
commander of the New York Air Guard from 2005 until his retirement from the
military in 2009.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.