Pilot safe, unharmed following dead-stick landing in Marion County

A 1980 Cessna P210 sits disabled at the Marion County Rankin Fite Airport hangar. A pilot traveling from Jackson, Tenn., made an emergency landing in the plane on Tuesday evening, Jan. 5, at the airport in Hamilton after his engine went dead at 15,000 feet.

By Scott Johnson | Managing Editor

HAMILTON - A pilot flying out of Jackson, Tenn., is alive after making a dead-stick landing at the Marion County Rankin-Fite Airport.

According to airport manager Jeff Davis, he and local first responders were alerted at approximately 5:40 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 5, by the Memphis Air Traffic Control Center to a plane attempting an emergency landing at the airport in Hamilton.

Davis said he immediately responded to the airport from his residence in Winfield to turn on runway lights. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Hamilton Fire Department were also dispatched to the airport to provide assistance.

Hamilton Assistant Fire Chief Matt McCracken said three firefighters in one tanker were on the scene within minutes of the call and arrived to find the plane had already landed.

According to McCracken, the single passenger had no injuries and there was no damage to the aircraft. He said the plane was 15 miles from Hamilton when it lost power.

“In my 30 years in this department, this is the first incident we’ve ever had at the airport,” McCracken said. “We’re tickled to death with the outcome and we’ll be okay if nothing like this happens again."

The pilot of the plane, who told a Journal Record reporter he wished not to be named, says he was en route to Apalachicola, Fla., at 15,000 feet in his pressurized single-engine 1980 Cessna P210 when his engine locked up.

Left gliding, the pilot said he was losing 1,000 feet of altitude per minute in the air. He said if he hadn’t been at such a high altitude when his engine died he may not have reached a safe place to land.

Air traffic control reportedly directed the pilot to the Marion County airport as an ideal place to land due to the length of its runway. The pilot said if there had been more light at the time of the incident, he may have considered landing on Interstate 22.

Without power from his engine, the pilot said he went radio-dead during his descent. He said he landed hard on the runway but was nearly perfect with his positioning on the strip.

The pilot, who is a 28-year seasoned aviator, said, “I didn’t have time to panic. My training kicked in and I focused on controlling the plane.”

The pilot commended and thanked Davis for rushing to the airport to get the runway lights turned on at the airport and was complementary to the quick responses from emergency personnel .