Dad's Plane Crash 1990

[Note:  This story may not seem as funny after my father, Jack Nolen, was killed in his airplane crash on January 14, 2005.  However, Dad did live without fear and was not going to be stopped.  This story is true and indicative of the way he lived.]

My father, the ever bold pilot, came to visit us in Kingsport in 1990. He rented a Cessna 152 in Louisburg, NC where he lived at the time and flew into a strong headwind. The flight took longer than expected and he ran out of fuel (although he swore it was because the gas was bad). Somehow, he managed to land the little plane in a small field in fading twilight. Fortunately, he was unhurt and the next day, we went to the airport and met the man who owned the land who showed us the way back to the plane. When we got there, we found a news crew from channel 5 in Bristol waiting for us.

Here are some shots I took off a videotape using a digital camera of the news story that appeared that evening.

Yes, it was big news here in the Tri-cities!

Dad got to go on camera and tell his story. He thought it was just trash in the gasoline and that he could make it to the airport. However, the engine was sputtering and he was losing altitude. Only a few miles from the runway, he realized that he wasn't going to make it!

My son Sam (1 year old) is in my left arm, I am in the red shirt, and Dad is standing next to me. What we are doing is checking the fuel tank. I brought a wooden ruler which Dad is using to "prove to me that there is still fuel there and that the gas was bad." However, it was dry as a bone, which means it was "pilot error!"

It was an amazing landing considering that he narrowly missed the power lines, landed on a downhill slope, ran through a barbed wire fence (some of which is wrapped around the propeller), and stopped as the plane was traveling up the hill on the other side of the fence. Dad said that after he stopped safely, he reached to unbuckle his seat belt and then realized he had forgotten to fasten it! No harm done to the indefatigable Jack Nolen though.

It's an amazing memory. I'll never forget it. And neither will the guy who owned the land. It was the biggest thing that ever happened on his little piece of turf!

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