Unscathed: No injuries reported in emergency landing
By Scott Loftis
The pilot and three passengers aboard a small private airplane emerged unscathed after a dramatic emergency landing on the night of July 4 at the Carroll County Airport.
Jim Bryant Jr. of Pryor, Okla., was at the controls of the single-engine 1978 Cessna, traveling with his wife and another couple. The group had eaten dinner at Gaston’s White River Resort in Baxter County and was en route to downtown Tulsa to watch a fireworks display when trouble struck.
“We were level at 4,500 feet 13 miles east of Berryville … and 12 miles west of Harrison,” Bryant says in a written statement. “We were taking pictures of the sunset when all of a sudden an unusual surge took place in the engine. I made a few adjustments and looked at my engine monitor … to see what was going on. I noticed the oil pressure steadily dropping. Normally it would be around 70-72 psi. But it was now in the low 60's and continuing to fall.”
Bryant contacted air traffic controllers in Memphis, who alerted local authorities to have emergency responders dispatched to the airport.
“We were starting to see oil residue on the right windshield,” Bryant writes. “I looked at the oil pressure which read 40 psi. Our altitude was slowly decreasing. We were now about 3,000 feet and 10 miles from Berryville Carroll County Airport. Nothing I adjusted made any difference on the oil pressure as it was continuing to drop. My engine was starting to run very rough and hot.”
Bryant instructed his passengers to fasten their seatbelts and prepare for “an off-field landing,” he writes.
“I considered a four-lane highway, a few open fields that appeared to be somewhat flat … but I was hoping that we could make it all the way to Carroll County Airport.”
As Bryant approached a runway at the airport, the engine died.
“It had barely been running but every little bit
helped in getting us to the airport,” Bryant writes. “Right after the engine died I turned off the master electric switch which controls everything in the plane. … We were landing with a dead plane.”
The plane was higher and traveling faster than a typical approach on a short runway, Bryant writes.
“We finally touched down about halfway down the runway and started slamming on the brakes and pulling back on the yoke (that's to keep as much pressure off the front wheel as possible),” Bryant writes. “By the end of the runway we were still traveling at 50 knots airspeed. We ran off the end of the runway unto a flat grassed area for about 150 feet. Then we went airborne down a 50-foot drop and hit about halfway down where my front wheel sheered off and we skidded to a stop 25 feet before a fence and heavy treeline.”
Emergency responders initially could not locate the plane’s occupants, Bryant writes, and the group of four began walking up the hill before being picked up.
“None of us had any injuries from the emergency landing at all,” Bryant writes. “We all refused medical assistance from the paramedics. The plane simply came to a stop without catching on fire.”
Bryant, who has 1,160 hours of flight experience, credited his training for helping him avoid a potential catastrophe. A music minister at a Baptist church in Pryor, he also gave thanks to God.
“Give God the glory for all that happens,” he says in his written statement.
Bryant said by phone Monday that the plane is still being evaluated to determine whether it can be repaired or will be declared a total loss. The Federal Aviation Administration classified the emergency landing as an “incident” rather than an “accident,” he said, because the airport was not damaged, there were no injuries to any passenger and there was no bent firewall on the aircraft.
Bryant praised local emergency responders.
“They were just amazing,” he said. “They were so courteous to us.”
Bryant said he will continue flying and has already made arrangements to use another plane to fly to Virginia later this month to visit family.
“I still say and will continue to proclaim that travel by General Aviation is one of the safest forms of travel in the United States,” Bryant says in his written statement. “That safety record is due to pilots who are willing to stay current, be trained and prepare for the worst while expecting the best on every flight. The likelihood of an engine out emergency is extremely low. The only way to be
successful when one happens is to follow your training.”