Plane flips in field, no injuries to pilot

Published 12:04 am Saturday, October 8, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Sam Ellett makes a phone call after one of his student planes crashed in a field near the Lakeside Ford dealership in Ferriday Friday afternoon. No one was injured in the accident.

FERRIDAY — When the only engine of an airplane went out late Friday as it approached the Concordia Airport, 22-year-old pilot Jason Lawrence’s life was literally flipped upside-down.

Lawrence escaped the single-engine plane after an emergency landing in a cotton field. His plane flipped, but Lawrence, who had only two or three minor scratches on his leg and ankle, was psychologically unshaken.

“This is not how I wanted to spend my weekend,” Lawrence said.

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“I don’t even want to call my parents because they might not let me fly.”

Lawrence was cruising on an approximately hour and half flight in the 1972 Cessna 150 L from Cleveland, where he attends college at Delta State University, to the Concordia Parish Airport when the engine failed just 2.5 miles from his destination.

Lawrence, who said he has been flying planes for four years, was in the air flying next to flight instructor, Sam Ellett of Chief Aviation Services, who operates out of the Concordia Parish Airport.

Ellett told Lawrence through the radio Lawrence should land the plane in a cotton field just west of the Ford Dealership in Ferriday.

“I was not nervous,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said he turned the plane around in order to line it up parallel to the large gullies of the cotton field.

“I circled around, lined up with the grooves and put it down,” Lawrence said.

But once the plane’s nose hit the bottom of a groove, the plane jumped approximately 20 feet, tail-over-propeller and landed upside down.

A dent in a row of the field caused by the nose of the plane was visible from the site where the plane laid down with its wheels helplessly poking up in the air.

“It made a pretty good leap,” Ellett said as he stood with Lawrence and several others waiting for the insurance company to assess the damage.

Ellett, who owns the plane, said the plane, which was nicknamed Roadrunner, was likely totaled.

Lawrence said he has completed numerous simulated emergency landings, but flipping upside-down was new to him.

“That was unexpected,” he said.

Ellett said he was impressed with Lawrence’s ability to stay calm under pressure and allow his training to kick in and take over.

Ellett said he was not sure if Lawrence was safe until he landed his own plane and drove his truck to the site.

Ellett and first responders at the site said they were relieved to find Lawrence walking around.

Ellett said Lawrence immediately started to apologize to him for the damage of the plane, but Ellett assured him that was why he had insurance and he was just happy no one was seriously harmed.

“I was extremely happy,” Ellett said. “Let’s just say me and the Lord communicated a lot between the airport and here.”