Local News

Wind Crashes Ultralight Into Only Tree in Sight

Posted February 19, 2007 12:36 p.m. EST
Updated February 20, 2007 8:12 a.m. EST

— Firefighters using a ladder truck rescued an injured pilot Monday afternoon after strong winds pushed his ultralight aircraft into the only tree in a hayfield and left him 50 feet above the ground with a broken leg.

Justin Schilling, 58, of Vass had taken off at around Noon from Tommy Loving's field near Highway 24/27 and Cranes Creek Road in Moore County..

"He asked me if it was alright to come flying," Loving said. "He went around to the right and he just headed straight toward that tree. He never could get it turned."

Investigators said they believed a strong gust of wind forced the plane into the tree.

The metal framework that holds the pilot's seat landed right-side-up in the branches of the tree with Schilling in his seat. Firefighters said he suffered a broken leg.

"He was quite alert and everything," Cameron Fire Chief Buddy Thompson said. "He told us what pain he had in his leg and all. He was very cooperative."

A ladder truck from Southern Pines brought down Schilling from the tree. Friends of Schilling told WRAL's Bryan Mims that Schilling is a retired Army Ranger with many parachute jumps to his credit.

A helicopter took Schilling to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. A spokeswoman said Schilling was not at the hospital Monday evening.