Man safe after plane crash

Published 9:43 pm Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Georgia pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in a Covington County cotton field Thursday afternoon, but walked away from the accident with no serious injuries.

Jonathan Lord, 26, of Columbus, Ga., was flying his Aeronca SuperChamp personal plane from Noonan, Ga., to Destin, Fla., when he experienced engine trouble around 12:38 p.m.

“I was flying down to Destin for a wedding, when I started losing power and the engine began to sputter,” he said. “I was able to get it restarted twice, but on the third time it gave out for good.”

Lord said he was able to maintain control of the aircraft and touched it down safely in a cotton field near Wages Road in the Babbie community. The plane sustained minor damage to its nose and landing gear, while Lord escaped the crash unharmed.

Lord said that at first sign of trouble he contacted the control tower at South Alabama Regional Airport with the intention of landing there, but had to make an emergency landing in the field about five miles north of the airport.

The airport fire department and crash rescue team responded to the scene, along with members of the Covington County Sheriff’s Office, Babbie Fire Department, Opp Police Department, Opportunity EMS and Alabama State Troopers.

The plane was towed to the airport and will remain stored at the hangar for several more days.

“Our fire department and crash team did an excellent job of responding to this incident,” said Jed Blackwell, administrator of the South Alabama Regional Airport. “Our air traffic control is highly trained for incidents of this nature. Everyone did a good job of responding.”

Blackwell said officials in the control tower first contacted him, and he responded by contacting E-911.

Lord said he has been flying for seven years and had not previously been forced to make an emergency landing.

“The engine has never quit on me before like that,” he said. “I’ve flown gliders in the past, so I was a little familiar with how to land an aircraft that has no engine. I was too busy trying to land the plane to worry about what might be the ultimate outcome; I just wanted to get down safely.”

Lord added that he appreciated the airport and emergency crew’s response.

“There was a lot of amazing support and response from every one,” he said. “I’m very thankful for every one who helped.”