By Troy Myers and Julia Coin

WALDO, Fla. – A small aerobatic plane with only the pilot aboard crashed in a flooded ditch northeast of Gainesville Regional Airport early Thursday and flipped, authorities and witnesses said. The pilot survived and was being checked at a nearby hospital.

The 53-year-old pilot, who was not initially identified, was pulled from the wreckage by a farm worker about 8 a.m. Thursday, said Debra Yarborough, the office manager for Straughn Farms.

The damaged plane, a Yakovlev Yak 55-M built in 1992, was upside down in a farm field next to a tractor as fire trucks, sheriff’s cruisers and a helicopter from Alachua County responded to the scene. The planes are well known for aerobatics and are generally considered reliable. 

“He’s lucky he went down in water,” Yarborough said, “because if he hadn’t it probably would have killed him.”

Authorities took the pilot to UF Health Shands Hospital to be checked for injuries, said Becky Butscher, a spokeswoman for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. 

It was not immediately clear where the plane took off or was headed, Butscher said.