Thursday, August 02, 2018

'I was very fortunate to be over some very beautiful, flat Illinois farmland' -Mac Hodges

Photographer: Chris McGee
A representative from the Federal Aviation Administration meets with Mac Hodges (right), 73, of Andersonville, Georgia, after his biplane made an emergency landing in rural Douglas County, Illinois.

LONGVIEW — The pilot of a vintage airplane who made an emergency landing on a rural Douglas County road is in good spirits back home in Georgia following his weekend adventures.

Mac Hodges, 73, of Andersonville, Georgia, was flying his biplane home from a show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, when he said he experienced an oil-line break over East Central Illinois late Friday morning.

"My plane was built in Broadhead, Wisconsin, by a dentist who retired from dentistry in 2010 and passed away in 2011," Hodges said. "The plane was completed in 2004, but the engine is from the late 1930s or early 1940s. I've had the plane for about three years.

"After leaving Oshkosh, I had made two fuel stops: one in Poplar Grove, Illinois, and one in Rantoul. It was a beautiful day, and I remember flying over Champaign-Urbana. Shortly thereafter, I happened to look down, and I saw the oil pressure going down rapidly. I knew the engine wouldn't run very much longer."

Hodges searched the countryside for a location to make an emergency landing.

"I was very fortunate to be over some very beautiful, flat Illinois farmland," he said. "I looked around for a flat country road where there were no power lines, and I landed on a road into the wind."

Hodges managed to make a landing south of Longview, on County Road 1450, about a mile south of the Champaign-Douglas county line at 11:30 a.m.

He got out of the plane and found a big puddle of oil under the motor.

According to Hodges, a farmer happened to be spraying some weeds at the edge of a nearby soybean field.

"He came up to me and asked if I needed help, and I said yes," Hodges said.

Hodges said he and the farmer pushed the biplane about an eighth of a mile to a farmhouse where Jerry and Bev McGee lived.

The McGees' son, Chris McGee, said Douglas County sheriff's deputies and a representative from the FAA arrived soon thereafter.

"My dad farms, and we have a shop in a shed," Chris McGee said. "We decided to put the plane in the shed for the evening, and I gave Mac a ride to the Super 8 in Tuscola so he could spend the night there."

Meanwhile, some of Hodges' friends who had also been at Oshkosh drove to Douglas County to help out.

"The next day, we were able to work on te plane, pulled the airplane engine and made repairs in my parents' shed on our farm," McGee said.

"The back of the motor was covered with oil," Hodges said. "It appeared the oil was coming from the rear center of the engine. The only thing to do was pull the motor out to see what was going on. Thank goodness the McGees had a forklift to hoist the 300-pound motor up.

"Pretty soon we found the problem," he said. "It was a broken oil line."

When Hodges took off in the repaired biplane late Saturday afternoon, he circled over the soybean field, gave a thumbs-up to the farmers and then soared away.

"He was as thankful as could be," McGee said.

He arrived safely back in Georgia on Sunday evening.

"The best thing about the entire adventure was that I was able to meet some great new friends with lots of tools who were so nice and hospitable," Hodges said. "The McGees will always be my friends. If fact, everybody was so nice. It was awesome."

Story and photo gallery ➤


  1. One of the luckiest landings in history!

  2. Great story with a good ending. This is how it must have been back in the 1930's during the "golden era" of aviation when pilot's were stick & rudder men and not button pushers.