Pilot walks away from I-70 landing | AspenTimes.com

Pilot walks away from I-70 landing

Aspen Times Staff Report

A New Castle pilot headed for Aspen ended up landing on a grassy spot next to I-70 near Rifle Tuesday morning instead.

Rather than strolling across the tarmac at Sardy Field, pilot William Gibson walked, albeit “rather rigidly,” away from his emergency landing, said Ron Vanmeter, spokesman for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. Engine failure forced Gibson to abruptly abort his flight.

He was treated for back pain at Clagett Memorial Hospital in Rifle, but was released and returned to the crash scene later in the day to help make arrangements to have his plane moved.

According to sheriff’s office reports, the single engine on Gibson’s Cessna conked out just after a 6:30 a.m. takeoff from the Garfield County Airport.

“He tried to land in the westbound lanes of the interstate,” Vanmeter said, “but couldn’t make it because of the power lines. Instead, he ditched just south of the highway, then bounced up onto the road, spun to the north across the eastbound lanes, into and across the median, and ended up with his tail pointing to the north, crossways of the westbound lanes.” The plane came to a stop in the median.

Gibson, 38, who told Vanmeter he didn’t want to talk to anyone from the media, said “he had no idea of any problem with the plane,” Vanmeter said.

First reports indicated there was a female passenger on board the plane, but that proved untrue, the sheriff’s office spokesman said.

“It didn’t do a lot of damage to the plane,” Vanmeter said. “The aftermath – with drivers slowing down to see what was going on – was more dangerous than anything.”

Traffic was tied up for about 45 minutes, according to reports.

Apparently there were no witnesses to the incident, Vanmeter said, or at least no drivers who saw the landing and stuck around to talk with authorities.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were notified of the crash, and authorized moving the plane to a safer location, the sheriff’s office reported.

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