The pilot of a single-engine amphibious plane that crash-landed in a field in Greenfield on Tuesday afternoon doesn’t know how he was able to emerge virtually unscathed from the experience.
Bill Booth, a 67-year-old Florida resident who has a summer home in Blue Mountain Lake, had flown to the Saratoga County Airport outside Ballston Spa for some routine radio work and was on his way back to his summer home a little after 3 p.m. when he noticed something was wrong. He said about five minutes into his return flight he noticed a slight uptick in his engine’s RPMs.
“This is curious,” he remembers thinking.
Initially believing the problem was minor, Booth planned on returning to the airport, but a sudden, loud bang and a lot of vibration told him that wasn’t going to be possible. He said single-engine plane pilots are always thinking about where they might need to make an emergency landing, so he had a spot in mind to land when the problem initially presented itself.
“I picked out my field,” he said. “I thought I could make the airport, but I couldn’t.”
The field Booth picked out was on the south side of Middle Grove Road, just west of Sand Hill Road. It stretches out for more than 150 yards, but is sloped downward toward Middle Grove Road.
The plane was heading toward the ground at 1,200 feet per minute, more than twice as fast as Booth anticipated. He said the plane was supposed to glide to the ground, but it didn’t perform as advertised.
Frank Lyons, 68, who lives on Middle Grove Road next to the field, was in his garage when the plane crashed.
“I didn’t feel anything, but I heard a loud crash,” he said.
The noise sounded to him like it might have been a tractor-trailer rolling over, especially because he heard the crashing sound again.
Booth said he still had control after the initial impact, and with the plane skidding down the field toward Middle Grove Road, he acted to prevent it from injuring anyone on the road. To stop the plane, he turned it to the right, describing the motion as a “hockey stop.”
The hard turn caused the plane’s single engine, located in the middle of the plane, to fall off to the side.
In the aftermath of the accident, Booth said he thought, “I was very surprised that I was not hurt.”
By the time Lyons got out of his garage and saw the plane, the cockpit was open and Booth was standing on his own. Lyons asked if he was all right, and Booth said, “I think I am.”
Lyons then took Booth to his house and treated him for some minor cuts on both hands.
Looking at the airplane almost two hours after the accident, Booth said, “It doesn’t look like I should be OK.”
Despite appearing to have survived by a miracle, he is already looking for a new plane.
“This doesn’t deter me at all from flying,” he said.
It was not clear Tuesday evening what caused the accident. The Greenfield Fire Department and Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene.