Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cessna 177 Cardinal, N30033: Incident occurred July 19, 2017 at Fond du Lac County Airport (KFLD), Wisconsin

http://registry.faa.gov/N30033




FOND DU LAC - Disaster was diverted Wednesday night when an airplane in distress battled a storm to land safely at the Fond du Lac County Airport.

It’s that time of year, when air crafts of all kinds from throughout the U.S. and around the globe take to the skies to attend EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh — an annual gathering of aviation enthusiasts.

Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Capt. Ryan Waldschmidt said no one was injured and the aircraft, a single-engine 1968 Cessna 177, suffered no damage.

The pilot, 75-year-old Mark Thompson and his passenger, Mike Radisch, 54, had been en route from the state of Washington to the Dodge County Airport in Juneau when thunderstorms hit, they told deputies. The headwinds, more than 50 mph, caused the plane to burn fuel much faster than anticipated.

“With less than five gallons of fuel left, they attempted to land at the closest airport in Fond du Lac, however they had difficulty seeing the runway and controlling the aircraft with the rain and wind from the thunderstorm in the area at that time,” Waldschmidt said in a news release. “They circled the airport approximately five times attempting to land before safely being able to put the aircraft down.”

In addition to being low on fuel, they lost communications with air traffic control during the final stretch of their flight, but safely touched down about 9:45 p.m.,while sheriff's deputies, the Wisconsin State Patrol and a fire department crew stood by.

Airport Manager John Wehner said Fond du Lac County’s airport is unmanned after 7 p.m., so no one was on duty when the plane landed.

The airport has been busy preparing for the influx of EAA enthusiasts, and beginning this Saturday, three air traffic controllers from the Federal Aviation Administration will be taking over to operate the airport during the week of AirVenture.

“When they take over, we become a tower-controlled airport because we anticipate about 700 aircraft will be coming into Fond du Lac,” he said.

The week is also a busy one for Fond du Lac’s EAA Chapter, headed by John Zorn and Gary Hilbert. Zorn says it takes a crew of about 100 people to help park the planes, take care of campers and keep the grounds running smoothly.

“Once the airplanes are on the ground they are handed over to us,” said Zorn, a pilot for almost three decades. “We strategically place people around the field, in long-term or short-term parking, and then there's the campers, who literally set up under the wing of their airplanes.”

About 150 campers take advantage of the local EAA Chapter's hospitality, which includes offerings of showers and toilets and food on airport grounds. Other visitors to Fond du Lac during EAA rent rooms out at Marian University, Zorn said, or stay in personal homes through Airbnb.

The weeklong aviation adventure makes money for Fond du Lac County and the local chapter. A $15 airplane fee goes to the county, and out of that, the chapter gets $1.50. Campers are also charged $35. Oshkosh EAA supplies Fond du Lac with equipment, like John Deere Gators, golf carts and motor scooters to get around.

“We are really working for them, so they help us out,” he said.

It’s hard to describe the passion that comes with flying an airplane, the veteran pilot said. In the past four years he’s seen a resurgence of young people showing an interest in getting their pilot’s license, which costs around $8,000 when all is said and done.

“It is the most amazing feeling, to take a 3,000-pound vehicle and take to the air, each time I am still awestruck,” he said. “You can be having the worst day of your life and flying can make you forget about everything else.”

http://www.fdlreporter.com

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