Survivor

says belts

saved him

TURNER – Jerry Crute was thinking that perhaps he should stop on his way home Sunday evening to pick up a lottery ticket. Luck – first bad then good – was with him.

Crute, 60, had just walked away from a plane crash.

While his 1971 Cessna Skyhawk was totaled in the wreck, Crute faired much better. He suffered a scratch on the bridge of his nose where his glasses sat, and a few scrapes on the knuckles of his left hand.

“The belts worked,” he said.

The Topsham man had taken off from Wiscasset’s airport earlier Sunday and had visited airports in Bangor and Augusta before attempting to land at Twitchell’s Airport here. It was to have been the next to last stop on a 150-mile flight that would have ended back in Wiscasset.

“I’m still a student,” he said. The flight was Crute’s final flying requirement before sitting for a written pilot’s license test, he said. He’s been learning how to fly since 1999.

Now, sitting in the office at Twitchell’s, the pilot explained what happened.

“I came in high” for a landing, “and called a go-around.” He circled back to catch the wind just-right and started back toward the runway.

“I had the speed down to where I wanted it, but came in on the high side,” Crute recalled. “I should have done another go-around,” but instead he said he let his wheels drag and used flaps to help slow the plane. Then he decided his approach still left something to be desired.

He goosed the plane and pulled back on his controls to gain altitude again and “that appeared to be working.” But he also didn’t want to go into too steep of a climb for fear of stalling.

“Then I saw the last 6-to-8-feet of a tree, and I figured I had had it because I knew I had 6-to-8-feet of airplane under me.”

“The next thing I knew, I was hanging down upside down,” Crute said.

The Cessna had clipped some branches of a white pine, flipped and crashed onto its roof.

Crute said he did a quick check of himself while trying to release his lap and shoulder belts. “I knew I was OK,” he said.

Turner Fire Chief Steve Fish called Crute “very lucky.”

He said Turner Rescue crews checked the pilot out for his minor injuries then returned to quarters after Crute declined transport to a hospital.

Fish supervised firefighters as they poured foam onto fuel that spilled slowly from the plane’s tanks. He said he suspected the plane was a total loss.

Crute said the plane is insured.

He also said he intends to continue with his plans to get his pilot’s license, but the former owner of the Bowdoin Camera Exchange won’t be climbing into another cockpit right off.

“I’ll take a break – put it that way,” Crute said.

The Federal Aviation Authority is expected to conduct an investigation at the site Monday.


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