Last Tuesday Keith Melius was flying into Jamestown, North Dakota.
“I wasn’t quite there yet, and I didn’t quite make it,” he said.
“I was about 20 miles south of Jamestown when it all started. The engine started cutting out on me, so I immediately began emergency procedures to get it running smooth again, but nothing I tried worked. I realized I would have to set her down, and so I looked around to find the best spot I could find. I spotted a field with some black dirt showing, and there seemed to be plenty of space to come to a stop, so I made the approach, lined it up and glided her down.”
“When I first touched down it was about as smooth as a grass field landing, not bad,” Melius explained. “Then I hit a spot where the snow was a little deeper and my back wheels came off the ground for a bit; that put the nose down and bent the propeller and drug my right wing for a little ways. But after that, I’d had enough room to slow down and stop and it was all over.”
Melius said that it was a scary situation, but it was nothing he wasn’t prepared for.
“It was about as scary as the first time I flew solo,” he said. “About that same level of fear. But it’s something that you train for when you get your license and it’s something that you continually practice for and commit to memory afterward, and I know I did. I prefer landings that you can fly away from rather than just walk away from, but this was certainly not as bad as it could have been for me. You just have to remain calm and remember to just do what you’ve been trained to do.”
Melius was taking his Cessna 172 to Jamestown to have work on its radio done and do a pitotstatic systems check.
“My dad was driving up to pick me up anyway, so I did have a ride back home. I tried my cell phone, but there was no service. Thankfully there was a farmer who lived not a quarter mile from where I landed, and his son and hired man saw me and came out right away. I borrowed a cell phone that worked and called dad and he detoured to come and get me. The next day I took a trailer up with Craig Mutsch and a mechanic from Aberdeen and we hauled it there to get repairs. She’ll need a new propeller, a new wing, and some structure repair toward the tail, as well as them taking the engine apart to see what went wrong and if there is any damage to the shaft from the propeller striking the ground.”
Though Melius admits he’s certainly had better days, all in all he feels that things could have gone a whole lot worse for him and that he was able to make the best out of a bad situation, and he happily plans to continue flying.