January 26, 2013

Solo pilot crash-lands airplane Saturday night in Atwater

A student pilot was uninjured after crash-landing his airplane two miles east of Castle Airport on Saturday night, according to Battalion Chief Gabriel Santos, Merced County Fire Department spokesman.

The pilot reportedly lost engine power and was forced to land in a field near Bellevue Road and Fox Road, north of Santa Fe Drive in Atwater about 6:09 p.m.

Santos said the aircraft overturned and was lying in the middle of the field when emergency responders arrived.

The pilot, believed to be a student at Sierra Academy of Aeronautics in Atwater, was able to get out of the plane and was speaking to emergency crews Saturday night. Santos said the pilot was "shook up" but sustained no injuries.

The airport tower contacted Cal Fire about 6:30 p.m. to notify it about the off-site aircraft crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board also were notified about the incident, Santos said.

It's unknown if the solo pilot was attempting to land or take off from the airport.

Cal Fire, the Merced County Sheriff's Department and the Atwater City Fire Department also responded to the scene Saturday night.

Santos said crews were relieved that the incident wasn't more serious.

"We're just grateful no one was injured," Santos said.

No property damage was reported.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or

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