AVON, Ohio — A single-engine plane went down in a cornfield in Avon on Saturday evening, and now the pilot is crediting his training that allowed him to make an emergency landing after the aircraft suffered an engine failure.
In a matter of seconds, a routine training flight turned into an emergency. Flight instructor Elizer Martinez was on a routine flight with a student when he noticed the plane was experiencing engine problems.
“I see that my oil light was on. I look down and I see my oil pressure gauge was completely bottomed out. And then I see my RPMs start dropping,” Martinez said. “At that moment I was like 'Yep, we’re going to have an engine failure.'”
The pair was returning to Burke Lakefront Airport from Lorain after doing pattern work at the Lorain County Airport.
“I knew I was having problems, so I was trying to climb a little bit and get more altitude,” Martinez said. “At least if something did happen, I had enough altitude to glide somewhere.
Martinez took control of the aircraft and tried to turn back to Lorain. Flying at 1,700 feet above the ground, the engine completely cut out.
“As soon as I made that turn, the engine just [stopped], the [propeller] stopped spinning right in front of me and at that point we were in a glide,” Martinez said.
Fortunately, his training immediately kicked in.
“It was Saturday afternoon, there was a lot of traffic, so I was like, ‘Eh, that’s going to be kind of hairy,’” Martinez said. “At the last minute on the right I saw that cornfield, and I was like, ‘That’s it, today.’”
Martinez spotted the field just off Chester Road in Avon. He had never made a landing on a non-runway and expected a bumpy touch-down.
“You start securing the aircraft, shutting down the fuel systems, shutting off the fuel selectors so you don’t cause the possibility of an engine fire or electrical fire," Martinez said. “You keep that nose up to prevent that nose wheel from hitting a rut. If you keep a lot of the weight off the ground, it helps you not flip.”
Thankfully, the field was mostly frozen, and the plane remained on its wheels and came to a stop shortly after touching down. That’s when Martinez finally had a moment to process what had just happened.
“You get like five or ten minutes and you’re just shaking,” Martinez said. “And your nerves are like ‘Wow, what just happened?’”
Avon Fire Department arrived on scene and located the plane and with Martinez and his co-pilot. No one was injured in the incident, and the plane did not sustain any damage during the landing.
“It was a short runway, but luckily it stopped right in time,” Martinez said.
The emergency landing hasn’t made Martinez gun shy, and he’s already been back in the sky. He plans to use the incident as a teaching moment for his students in the future.
“It could’ve been bad. I could’ve not made it out of there,” Martinez said. “I know people who have been in these incidents and didn’t make it.”