Aircraft lands nose down in farm field


Allen Bass, of Fort Dodge, was standing at the end of his driveway visiting with a neighbor Tuesday afternoon when he spotted a small blue plane in the skies to the east.

It was flying as low as the treetops, he said.

“This plane was coming in real low,” Bass recalled as he stood at his home located at 1569 National Ave. “I heard the propeller. I heard him cranking on it.”

He added, “He brought it down real slow. It was just gliding — it was slow motion.”

The plane landed in a bean field near 160th Street and National Avenue, with the nose down and the tail sticking up.

The field is just north of the Fort Dodge Regional Airport.

“It didn’t nose dive or nothing,” Bass said. “If he could have made it to the runway, I don’t think he would have crashed it at all.”

The incident was called in by Bass at 3:18 p.m.

It was the first time he had seen anything like it after having lived near the Fort Dodge Regional Airport for many years.

“I’ve had parachuters land in my yard, but never a plane that close,” he said. “It was something you’d see in the movies.”

The pilot, Ralph Sonnicksen, 76, of Fort Dodge, reportedly crawled out of a window on the plane shortly after the crash.

He was seen up and walking around. He had a smile on his face a short time later as he sat in the passenger seat of a Fort Dodge police car.

According to Geof Miller, Webster County sheriff’s deputy, Sonnicksen suffered minor cuts and bruises, but was otherwise OK.

The pilot had taken off in the plane from the Fort Dodge Regional Airport, Miller reported.

Sonnicksen reported to officials that he made it to about 800 feet elevation when he began to have engine trouble.

He flew northeast, but the engine died, Miller said.

Sonnicksen noticed another aircraft in the area and decided to land in the bean field, he told officials.

The Webster County Sheriff’s Department reported that Sonnicksen “even tried to land with the crop rows to reduce the damage to field and aircraft.”

According to online Federal Aviation Administration records, Sonnicksen manufactured the fixed wing single-engine plane.

Bass seemed to think the pilot did quite well given his situation.

“They say landings are just controlled crashes,” Bass said. “I’ll call it a controlled crash.”

Along with Webster County sheriff’s deputies, the Fort Dodge Police Department, Fort Dodge Fire Department, Badger Volunteer Fire Department, UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center paramedics, Webster County emergency management, the Iowa State Patrol, the Iowa Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Enforcement, and the Fort Dodge Regional Airport maintenance department, responded.

The Federal Aviation Administration is anticipated to arrive today to conduct an investigation, Scott Forbes, Webster County emergency management coordinator, reported.