Pilot walks away from plane crash

By JESSICA BENSON

Staff writer

SALISBURY -- A pilot walked away, not a scratch on him, after he crash-landed his airplane in the marsh at the Salisbury Beach State Reservation yesterday afternoon.

Though the plane flipped upside down, Manny Encarnacion, 41, of Methuen, was not injured in the 3 p.m. crash. He refused medical treatment.

Encarnacion, a part-time flight instructor, had spent most of the day on training flights out of Beverly Airport. He decided to fly around the Salisbury area, doing a little sightseeing, before heading back to an airport in Lawrence, near his home.

But Encarnacion's 1978 Cessna lost power, causing him to need an emergency landing.

"I was aiming for a spot that looked nice, with room to land," he said. "You pick the best spot you can."

Encarnacion said the landing was normal until the plane's wheels got caught in the soft dirt and grass, causing it to flip over. He was strapped into his seat, which probably kept him from being injured.

Encarnacion said he simply practiced the safety maneuvers and procedures he teaches to his students.

"I preach a lot of emergency procedures all day long," he said. "Now, it's my turn to do it."

Campers at the nearby reservation campground saw the plane flying low to the ground, disappearing just out of their view. Witnesses said they didn't hear the plane making any noise, an indication it had lost power.

Larry Guild of Framingham thought the plane was attempting to land on the reservation road, not far from the crash site. Then he heard a noise, apparently from the plane landing and flipping over.

"It sounded like someone kicked a tin can," Guild said.

Some witnesses raced to the crash site, expecting to find an injured pilot. Instead, they saw Encarnacion walking away from his plane.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the accident. Investigators will review the airplane's maintenance records and will inspect the plane before trying to determine what caused it to lose power.

"We'll take it, shake it around and see what we come up with," said FAA air safety inspector David O'Donnell. "We don't know yet."

Encarnacion had his own theory about what caused the accident: that the engine stalled due to water in the fuel tank.

"It happens to a lot of planes," he said. "I'm pretty mad."

The damage to the plane's tail and nose were apparent once rescue crews flipped the plane right side up and towed it out of the marsh with a small excavator. The plane was also leaking fuel and oil, so rescue workers kept curious bystanders far away from the crash site.

It could cost as much as $20,000 to fix the damage, according to Encarnacion. He had just spent $25,000 fixing up the plane, which was not covered by insurance.