Two passengers emerged unscathed after the single-engine Cessna Skyhawk touched down in a north Lakeland pasture.
Two people have a lot to be thankful for this holiday after emerging unscathed when their single-engine aircraft was forced to make a controlled emergency landing in a pasture near the Green Swamp Wildlife Management Area on Wednesday morning.
Lakeland Linder International Airport Director Kris Hallstrand said the pilot and passenger were uninjured.
The “aircraft emergency” was initially reported at 8:12 a.m. after the pilot radioed the tower to report engine problems and then disappeared from the radar.
An assortment of sheriff’s deputies and fire rescue units from Lakeland and Polk County raced north, unsure exactly where the plane might have gone down and what they might find. Eventually, with the help of a drone, they got the coordinates — but accessing the scene was still tricky.
At one point, a fire rescue unit sought guidance about whether to cut a barbed wire fence, worried that livestock might escape. Shortly after, the call came over the radio that the plane’s occupants were OK and a patrol unit had found a way to reach the site via JEH Road.
A photograph provided by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office shows the fixed-wing, single-engine Cessna Skyhawk — registered to MBK Leasing and Consulting — landed in a grassy pasture and was undamaged.
“They were unable to make it back to the airport, the tower lost radar contact with them out in that area and dispatched emergency services,” Hallstrand explained. “Once you get below tree level, you’re most likely going to lose communication with the tower — with air traffic control.”
Hallstrand said the plane went down off Rockridge Road, between JEH Road and Saddlewood Boulevard, south of the fork at Deen Still Road. The area is remote and is lined with cattle ranches and homes on several acres.
“I would not call it a crash — I would call it a controlled emergency landing, which pilots are trained to do,” Hallstrand said.
A flight plan shows the plane departed from Lakeland Linder at 7:42 a.m., headed to Zephyrhills.
The plane is owned by Mauricio Kelmann. He declined to comment on Wednesday, saying he preferred to wait until the National Transportation and Safety Board concludes its investigation.
“I will say everybody walked out without a scratch, thank God,” said Kelmann.
He did not say who was piloting the plane.