Pilot survives emergency landing off the runway at Santa Ynez Airport

Engine dies after take off

A pilot survived a hard landing off the runway at the Santa Ynez airport. (John Palminteri/KEYT photo)

SANTA YNEZ, Calif. - No one was hurt Thursday morning after a small plane was forced to make an emergency landing near the Santa Ynez Airport.

At about 10:43 a.m., Crews with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department responded to the Santa Ynez Airport for a report of a plane crash.

The single-engine plane had lost power while taking off from the airport and crashed through a barbed wire fence before ending up in a field on the west end of the airport, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni. The plane was reportedly 50 feet up in the air when it lost power.

The pilot, Steve Thomas,  was the only one on board at the time of the incident. He self-extricated from the Glasair experimental aircraft and was not hurt.

The small aircraft suffered damage and there was a fuel leak from one of the wings due to the emergency landing. Fire crews worked to stop the leak.

The NTSB and the FAA were notified of the incident and are on their way to the airport. They'll be towing the plane from the field to a hangar at the Santa Ynez Airport.

Thomas said he built the plane himself and it was in service since 2010.   He had flown the plane a few weeks ago and earlier this morning before the engine failure. "I was in control of the airplane the whole way," he said.  "I saw the fence coming up and ran through the fence, I saw a dirt road and  I steered it on to the dirt road."  Thomas said he did not crash, and the plane did not sustain any widespread damage.

Thomas said he has been a pilot since the early 80's and was trained in emergency procedures. "As soon as I knew the power was not there I chopped the throttle back to zero and put all my attention into landing the plane," said Thomas.

The engine failure was puzzling, "I had plenty of gas in the airplane.  I had just completed an annual inspection and everything was good."

No further details were immediately known.

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