[March 23, 2017]

If you follow my site, you'll know I have helped my friend Craig ferry his Cessna 162 Skycatcher back and forth to Lancaster (KLNS) many times while they tried to fix some avionics bugs in his Garmin panel. Today was much like many of our other trips - clear skies, low winds and just a nice day to fly. I flew Craig up to KLNS after work. I helped him push his 162 out of the grass and then waiting for him to preflight and wait for the engine to warm up (it was a chilly day in the low 40's). Craig is quite meticulous - perhaps the most meticulous pilot I know. He uses a checklist for everything and never rushes to leave the ground. I had no problem waiting for him, as I wanted to make sure his airplane took off before I left for KDMW.

I taxied behind Craig at KLNS and waited for him to takeoff. I took off right after he did, and as soon as we left KLNS’s class D airspace and switched off their tower frequency we joined up in a loose formation at 3,200’. Craig was in the lead and I was off his right wing. We initially had some communication issue as he was on 123.45 and I was on 123.475. Once we got on the same frequency, we chatted nonchalantly about how nice the weather was, fuel burn and I might have poked fun of his 162’s blazing speed a few times.

All the sudden, Craig’s airplane fell back as if he slammed on the brakes. We were still 16 miles out from Westminster, MD (KDMW) so it was a little soon for him to pull back power. I gave him a call on the radio and he indicated he lost all power. He seemed extremely calm on the radio – he was much calmer than I was. I had an immediate feeling of complete helplessness.

Craig radioed for help on 121.5 as I monitored that frequency as well. The controller asked him to change frequencies to 125.525 (Potomac BELAY sector). Airliners from above were helping Craig’s messages get to Potomac as he descended too low for his radio to be able to reach Potomac. I completely lost sight of Craig soon after he lost his engine. He asked me to circle the area until he was on the ground, which of course I had no problem with. It seemed like an eternity that I was circling looking for any sign of an airplane in a field. A plethora of fields were below us for Craig to land on, and everything was dry – one advantage of flying over southern Pennsylvania and the area being in a drought. Craig had plenty of options of where to set down his airplane safely.

While I was circling at 3,000’ I contacted Potomac Approach to let them know the area where Craig was having an emergency, and I would report back to them additional information once her was on the ground. They asked me for the specific location where I was at to assist in case emergency services would be required. Not too long after I talked to ATC, I saw Craig’s airplane on the ground in the middle of a field. It appeared to be upright without any damage. What a huge relief! I went down to 500’ AGL and circled around the landing site looking for Craig. I saw him appear out of the airplane in my second 360 around the area. I climbed back up to 3,000’ and send him a text message asking if he was OK. He indicated he was. I relayed this information to Potomac Approach, and they gave me a phone number for Craig to call, which I relayed back to him.

Craig was safe on the ground so I headed back to KDMW. When I got on the ground I called him up to see what his next move would be. He said he got in the airplane and it started right up, and he was thinking of trying to fly it back. The sun was setting (it was 6:52pm, sunset is at 7:24) and there might have been another 30 minutes of daylight. I urged him to leave the airplane until we can figure out what exactly happened. He agreed and I was off in my car to retrieve him along with bringing tie downs to secure his airplane for the night.

It was a quick 30-minute drive to where Craig’s airplane was. When I walked over to him, two other people were there from the local newspaper- the York Daily Record (YDR). The two journalists were very professional and asked excellent questions to both Craig and myself. We saw another news van pull up from Fox 43 with a cameraman walking in our direction. We decided it was best for us to get the airplane tied down and for us to get home. Neither of us are much for attention.

Craig and I had a very open conversation on the drive back to Westminster about what happened, how we both dealt with the situation and next steps. We have a plan to safely get his airplane back to Westminster as we think we know what the root cause of the issue was and why the engine would not have restarted.

As I reflect on this situation I tried to think of anything I could have done better to be more help to Craig. I replayed everything that happened over and over, I can’t think of anything else that I could of or should have done. As soon as Craig let me know of the issue, we immediately started working as a team – and so did every other airliner monitoring 121.5 in the area. Everyone was on Craig’s team immediately without hesitation. Craig said everyone on the ground couldn’t have been nicer – from the farmer to the local media, passer-byers and the fire department. This is the best ending I could ever hope for in an emergency landing type situation. Craig did an amazing job staying calm and performing a textbook emergency landing.

This picture shows the field Craig landed in.

Link to York Daily Record Article



Last Modified: August 13, 2023