By Russ Niles, Editor-in-Chief
The cellphone videographer who kept the camera rolling as he and four others, including his seven-month-old baby, made a rough off-airport landing in Utah Feb. 2 has defended the pilot’s choice of a field covered in two feet of snow instead of a straight stretch of interstate highway. The video, which records what inevitably happens when the long main gear legs of a Cessna 175 dig into that much snow, has attracted more than 500,000 YouTube views and been featured on dozens of news channels. Happily, the videographer, Jonathan Fielding, his wife, child, mother-in-law and the pilot, a family friend, suffered only minor scrapes and a bit of whiplash in the incident. In a lengthy post with the video, Fielding said the Interstate, which can be clearly seen at various points in the video, was too busy and had too many power lines across it to risk a landing after suspected carburetor icing caused the engine to lose power. “Had he tried I’m confident that a collision would’ve occurred and this story could easily have ended in a fatality,” Fielding wrote. “The pilot made the best landing given the circumstances.” The nose gear sheared off and the plane flipped, coming to rest less than 100 feet from the point of impact. The occupants were picked up by a family that was snowmobiling nearby. While Fielding and his family have been most gracious in their reaction to the incident, the pilot’s insurance company is less so, according to Fielding.
Fielding said the pilot had neglected to renew the aircraft insurance and it had expired at midnight the day before. “The insurance company will not honor any kind of grace period and will do nothing for him, so now he’s lost a $40,000 plane in a matter of 13 hours,” Fielding wrote. “He is still happy and cheerful despite his loss.”