Local News

Four walk away from plane crash in Cumberland County

Posted June 14, 2011

— A pilot and his three grandsons suffered only minor injuries Tuesday when their single-engine plane crashed into some woods off an airstrip in northern Cumberland County, authorities said.

The plane crash occurred at about 10:30 a.m. in the woods surrounding Flyers Airpark, a grass runway off East Reeves Bridge Road and Palestine Road, about 4 miles from Linden, authorities said.

Joe Guyton, 75, said he wanted to take his 14-, 11- and 10-year-old grandsons for a sightseeing tour of the countryside, but the engine of his Grumman AA-5A Cheetah lost power during takeoff.

"It was either drive straight into the trees or go up over them," Guyton said. "So, I went over them, and the engine just quit with me. It didn't stop completely, but it just lost power."

Tim Mitchell, deputy director of Cumberland County Emergency Services, said Guyton tried to circle back to land but couldn't make it.

"(He) ended up hitting the trees and kind of just dropped straight into the woods," Mitchell said.

Guyton described the impact as similar to "hitting the water when you are high diving." 

Guyton and the boys were able to walk out of the woods and back to his home, where they reported the crash.

"I am in a plane, and our plane crashed," a caller told a 911 dispatcher on Tuesday. 

Later, the caller described the scene.  

"We are all four outside. We are walking through the woods. The woods is on fire," the caller said. 

Pilot recounts plane crash near Linden Pilot recounts plane crash near Linden

Dan Young, a neighbor and fellow pilot, headed into the woods after hearing the crash.

"Joe, I think he was in maybe a little bit of shock. Who wouldn't be?" Young said. "(The boys) didn't appear to be hurt in any way. I'm sure they were shook up."

The crash charred a portion of the woods, and firefighters spent some time spraying the area to keep the fire from spreading.

The Federal Aviation Administration was sending a team of investigators to Linden to try to determine the cause of the crash.

Guyton and his grandsons were treated at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center for minor injuries and released. One of the boys received stitches in his lip.

Sky 5 coverage of Linden plane crash Sky 5 coverage of Linden plane crash

"They were very lucky. The plane is completely destroyed," Mitchell said.

Flyers Airpark is a rural enclave where most residents are pilots. Many had nothing but praise for Guyton, calling him cautious and meticulous.

"He's an excellent pilot. He's flown for many, many years," neighbor Larry Coppernoll said, adding that he wasn't surprised that Guyton and his grandsons were able to walk away from the crash.

"Most small general aviation accidents are not life-threatening," Coppernoll said, comparing a single-engine plane crash to a car fender-bender. "The people who get killed (in small plane crashes) are in bad weather, but this is good weather."

Fellow pilot and friend Gene Byrd credits Guyton's quick thinking. 

"He knew what he was doing. He knew he was in trouble," Byrd said. 

Despite the crash, Guyton said he will fly again. 

"I am not scared of an aircraft," he said. 


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  • Ready2Taxi Jun 15, 2011

    Good job, Mr. Guyton. Blue skies and tail winds to you.

  • BubbaDukeforPresident Jun 15, 2011

    Now the kids have a story to tell their grandkids.

  • jwms32 Jun 15, 2011

    We are glad to hear that you all are safe with no injuries!!! Prayers going out to you and yours.

    Ammons Family
    Lake Teresa Estates in Linden

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jun 14, 2011

    And some think there are no miracles.

    Praise and Thank God!!!

    This old fella must have been so worried, with grandchildren on board and a problem engine.

    Thank God they are all ok.

  • cheezchicken Jun 14, 2011

    @paginasecunda-Really neat info...I confess to a fear of flying so thanks for taking the time to write all that out!
    Cheers to all aviators!!

  • Nunya123 Jun 14, 2011

    I believe that Mr. Coppernolls comments were taken out of context. Most general aviation accidents occur on the ramp and are like fender benders and occur during bad weather (hit a pole or another plane while taxiing). Accidents during flight operations are rare.

  • paginasecunda Jun 14, 2011

    @ncshearin, I should add that it's fairly normal to land without the engine producing power. The only difference is that that's (typically) at an airfield and is intentional. The engine is still on, and we throttle it up if necessary, but it's not always ideal to carry power into a landing on the types of aircraft that we are discussing.

  • paginasecunda Jun 14, 2011

    I am very glad to hear that everybody is okay. I'm sorry that it happened at all, but the safety of those on board is the important thing. MICHNELS - get a ban on cars pushed through, and we can start talking about banning airplanes and then trains.

  • paginasecunda Jun 14, 2011

    @ncshearin, If there is an open area within gliding distance of the airplane at the time of the engine failure, we can fairly easily land in a manner where everyone will walk away. The plane still flies very well, it just has lost it's capacity to maintain altitude. We simulate these situations by pulling the throttle to idle, and setting up an approach to a suitable area (or actually landing, if we are practicing in the traffic pattern at the airport). If the landing area is of suitable size and is relatively smooth, the plane often will not sustain any damage. If we had to land in a rough field, it is still typically very survivable, but the plane may sustain significant damage. With a seaplane (i.e. one with pontoons), it's a different beast, but as long as that body of water would normally be safe for landing, I am fairly sure that the plane would make a very safe landing. I am not rated to fly those, so I do not know the emergency procedures for a water landing.

  • Desiderata Jun 14, 2011

    MICHNELS, obviously you have no idea what you are talking about,,,just like to talk. Every one had their own idea of a fun thing..as are small planes, trains and automobiles..