MICHIGAN CITY — A pilot safely landed his crop duster in a soybean field Tuesday after the single-engine plane ran out of fuel while flying about 1,000 feet in altitude east of Michigan City.
Emergency crews from Springfield Township responded before noon to the 3500 block of West 800 North on a report of a plane down, but quickly returned upon learning it was a safe landing and both the pilot and plane were without a scratch.
The pilot, Ray Cottingham with Agriflite Services out of Wakarusa, said his engine died after running out of fuel. He used his skills to glide the small craft down to a smooth landing.
"It's just like a normal landing. You just don't have an engine," Cottingham said.
Neil Straub, a licensed pilot from LaPorte, said a plane with its engine stalled will glide for a certain distance, but it's especially critical to be calm and have a safe landing spot nearby.
A plane in such a situation can also be maneuvered to avoid power lines and trees as long as it's not steered too sharply or the plane will lose airspeed too quickly and begin to plummet.
''That's about all you can do. Just pick the best spot and put it in the best you can and hope for the best,'' said Straub, who several years ago himself safely executed a crash landing.
Pat Troy, who has been watching the plane dust crops, came home from work to have lunch and was surprised to see the airplane sitting in the open field just a few hundred yards from his property.
''He dips right down below the trees and sprays the fields and gets back up. He's kind of acrobatic with it. It's pretty interesting to watch,'' Troy said.
LaPorte County Police Capt. Mike Kellems said he took the pilot for a bite to eat then returned him to the aircraft an hour later to wait for a crew to arrive with fuel.
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