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Ultralight lands in soybean field

August 05, 1998

BY DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The pilot of an ultralight suffered minor injuries Tuesday evening when it crashed in a soybean field in Washington Township, Pa.

"I've had better days," Landis Whitsel said after the engine of his home-built aircraft conked out at about 1,000 feet.

"The soybeans tangled the landing gear and caused it to flip nose-over," said Whitsel, 49, from his home at 7286 Mentzer Gap Road, Waynesboro. The artist said he suffered some abrasions in the crash, but refused treatment at the scene.

According to the Franklin County 911 center, the crash landing was reported at 8:16 p.m. on the 11000 block of Gehr Road. Russell Long, of 8618 Lyons Road, Waynesboro, saw the accident.

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The owner of Long's Tree Service said he was giving an estimate nearby when he saw the ultralight. "This plane was sort of gliding, but I didn't hear any motor."

Long said the plane appeared to be heading east when it made a 180-degree turn and glided into the field at the farm of William and Lois Reynolds, 11129 Gehr Road.

"I didn't pick a good place to set it down, but I didn't have much choice," said Whitsel, a licensed pilot. The terrain in front of him was too steep, so he turned around and tried to land in the field.

He said he didn't know what caused the engine to quit. He said he was in the air about 15 minutes and the engine had only about 20 hours of operating time.

Whitsel said he spent about four years building the wood and fabric open-cockpit monoplane. "It was a showpiece. It suffered some pretty serious damage," he said.

He said the Federal Aviation Administration was called to the scene, but because of its weight, range and speed restrictions, it's a type of aircraft that doesn't need to be registered, or flown by a licensed pilot.

Asked if the incident would deter him from flying again, Whitsel said, "We don't let little things like that stop us."

Waynesboro firefighters were still on the scene late Tuesday.

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