TRUCKEE, Calif. — An alert pilot maneuvered away from disaster Friday after the small plane he was flying began to fail shortly after takeoff Friday from the Truckee Tahoe Airport.
Mike Seely of Watsonville, Calif., took off around 7:45 p.m. Friday in his Beechcraft Bonanza/Deboniar when the engine failed, said Airport General Manager Dave Gotschall. Seely landed the aircraft in a field in Martis Valley on the other side of Highway 267 with landing gear up, walking away unharmed.
“The pilot really deserves credit for doing the right thing,” said Gotschall, adding that the plane saw minimal damage.
Gotschall said that by landing in the field rather than trying to return to the airport, the pilot likely avoided a worse accident.
“That's the worst phase of flight to lose power — on takeoff, because you don't have the altitude to get anywhere,” Gotschall said.
Because Seely landed on the plane's belly, the propeller sustained damage, but the rest of the airplane was in fairly good shape, Gotschall said.
“Those things are built like tanks,” Gotschall said.
Compared to the number of Beechcraft planes flying, the number of instances where the engine fails are pretty rare, Gotschall said.
The airplane was recovered Saturday morning and transported back to a hangar at Truckee Tahoe Airport, awaiting investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board, Gotschall said.