Charles Town pilot lands in field

April 13, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Charles Town, W.Va., student pilot was safe at home Sunday after making an emergency landing on Saturday in a field near the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport.

West Virginia State Police said Duane Melius, 40, was flying from Winchester, Va., to the municipal airport near Martinsburg at about 9:50 p.m. when he had to land.

John Collins, chief flight instructor at Aero-Smith Inc., was watching his student Saturday night from the airport.

"I was a little concerned," Collins said Sunday. "I could hear him on the radio and I tried to get in contact with him but I was unable to."

Collins saw the plane's lights disappear behind some trees and drove to the field to find Melius.

"It was a tense moment," Collins said.

He found the plane about 1,000 yards from the airport. Melius, a student pilot with 40 to 50 hours of flight training, landed safely in the field near Tabler Station Road and U.S. 11. He was not injured and the plane wasn't damaged.


"It was a little scary," Melius said Sunday from his home. "But you've got to do something."

Collins said the flight training program emphasizes what to do in emergencies before students get in the air, and in Melius' case it paid off.

Melius has a few more flights before taking the test for his private pilot's license, Collins said.

"We're going to continue to work with him and get him ready. I think he's proficient in his emergency landings, though," Collins said. "I was really impressed with it."

Police said it appears the plane ran out of fuel, but Collins said Aero-Smith is still investigating why the plane went down.

Sgt. Joseph Adams said no charges will be filed by state police and any further investigation will be handled by airport authorities.

Adams said he didn't know whether the FAA would investigate the incident.

The Herald-Mail Articles