From the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate.....

Failed takeoff

Takeoff attempt from road fails

Plane that made emergency landing hits trucks along road trying to take off


Baker-Zachary bureau

BAKER -- The pilot who landed his plane on Plank Road on Wednesday tried to use the street as a runway again a day later, but clipped two parked trucks and wiped out before making it into the air.
Michael Simon and his wife, Loretta, made an emergency landing Wednesday on the busy four-lane highway when his single-engine Cessna 210 ran out of fuel a few miles north of Metro Airport.

About 24 hours later, spectators watched in horror as the plane, its turbocharged engine roaring, came too close to an 18-wheeler parked on the side of the road a few hundred yards north of the Groom Road intersection.

The plane's right wing grazed the side of the tractor-trailer and smashed a side mirror on its cab, then began wobbling before its wing struck the back of a Baker Fire Department rescue truck parked nearby, witnesses said.

The plane veered off the roadway and came to a halt nose down at the edge of some woods. Police and firefighters immediately called for an ambulance, but Simon climbed out of the heavily damaged plane without a scratch.

"It was really strange," said Bill Carnegie, acting director of the Second Harvest emergency food distribution center operating out of the old Wal-Mart store at Plank and Groom. "I was outside talking on my cell phone where I could get better reception, and I watched it taxi down the road and then turn around. I couldn't believe it happened right in front of me. I'm just glad he was not hurt."

Baker police and firefighters had blocked a lengthy stretch of the highway to allow the plane to take off, but an apparent lapse in communication led to Simon taking off before the emergency personnel were completely ready.

"Me and Snapper were waving our arms trying to stop him, but he just didn't see us," Fire Chief Danny Edwards said, referring to Police Capt. Mike "Snapper" Knaps.

Assistant Fire Chief Alvin Bauer had started to move the rescue truck when Simon gunned the engine, Edwards said.

"He got out of the truck, and I'm glad he did," the fire chief said of Bauer.

Roland Herwig, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said FAA investigators Wednesday advised Simon to truck the plane from the area rather than try to use the highway as a makeshift runway.

The agency, however, has no regulation prohibiting a pilot from attempting to take off from a roadway, which is a local matter, he said.

"We were not involved in the takeoff, but now we are involved in two accident investigations. We will investigate it from an aircraft safety standpoint," Herwig said.

Simon, who is from Eunice, declined to talk about the incident with reporters.

Gloria Prather and Kay Browning, who work at a dental office, witnessed the crash.

"The pilot and his wife were so sweet. She told us yesterday that God took care of them," Prather said.

"We were waving him goodbye, and to our horror right in front of us," Prather said.

Browning said she knew for certain the plane was having a problem when it struck the second vehicle.

"I heard it when it hit the rescue unit," she said.

Tiffany Battley, the driver of the 18-wheeler, said she pulled off the road to go into a seafood restaurant en route to a delivery in Zachary. She said no one contacted her about moving the truck.

The plane did not seriously damage the 18-wheeler or the Fire Department truck.