Pilot keeps his cool, lands safely after engine quits
An experimental airplane designed and built by the board chairman of the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority lost engine power and its pilot safely glided into a hay field Wednesday afternoon.
Owner of the 400-pound, single-seat, single-engine plane, Steve Wood, said the pilot, Phillip Winfrey, landed the plane “literally without a scratch” in a field in the area of 26 and H roads, shortly after taking off from the airport.
“He’s a great pilot,” Wood said of Winfrey. “He had taken off a few minutes before. He was just a couple miles from the airport and the engine stopped rather abruptly.”
Winfrey, 32, said he was about 800 to 900 feet in the air after takeoff when the engine lost power. He realized the plane wasn’t going to make it back to the airport, so he circled a few times, found a field to land in west of the airport and landed there.
“The things you hear about if you lose your engine over (Los Angeles) are a lot different than here,” he said. “There’s a lot of good places to land here.”
Winfrey said pilots constantly practice how to land a plane in case of engine failure and labeled his handling of the plane as “sounding impressive, but really not.”
Winfrey said he’s been occasionally teaching others how to fly for the past three years, and he earned his flying license in 2006.
He described Wood’s aircraft as the most fun plane he’s flown.
“The main thing I would say is, flying is a fun thing and a safe thing,” he said.
Wood said he also has flown the aircraft, which has been operational for about 14 months. Pilots have logged about 150 hours on the airplane, but this is the first time it has experienced any mechanical difficulties.
“Like with any new design, there’s going to be some tweaks,” Wood said. “We’re kind of anxious to open it up.”
Wood, an aeronautical engineer, was waiting in the farmer’s field with a trailer to take the plane away to fix it.
Because there was no significant injury or damage to the pilot, the aircraft or the field, the incident does not have to be reported to the Federal Aviation Administration, Wood said.
“It hasn’t been nearly as stressful as people might think,” Wood said of the incident.