By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
GUNTOWN – A casual sight-seeing flight turned serious Sunday night when the engine of J.J. Jasper’s Cessna 150 airplane died in mid-air over Guntown.
“We were just flying along and the engine seized up,” said Jasper, a speaker, author and morning radio show host for American Family Radio. “It felt like driving down the road and the steering wheel coming off in your hands.”
Jasper said he had two minutes at the most to decide where to land the small, two-seater plane. With a prayer and a quick glance at the fields and country roads below, he decided landing on Highway 45 was the safest solution.
“The tricky part was not landing on a car, but we found a slot in traffic and set it down,” he said.
Jasper said local, county and state responders were on the scene in moments. No one was injured, but the cause of the engine malfunction is still unknown.
“Lots of people have told me I’m lucky, but respectfully, there’s not much luck to it,” he said. “I give the Lord credit, and my flight training.”
A licensed pilot since 1995, Jasper co-owns the plane with his friend and neighbor, Jim Barton. Jasper said students and flight instructors spend a great deal of time on emergency procedures.
“They drill that stuff until you’re tired of it. You hope it’s something you never have to use,” he said. “But even with training, had the situation been different, like if we had been over a wooded area or it had been pitch dark, it could have turned out very differently.”
The close call hasn’t made Jasper sheepish about taking to the air again. Because of strict maintenance standards required by the Federal Aviation Administration, the odds of an engine malfunction, he said, are remote.
“Everything has to be signed off on by an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) mechanic,” he said. “I really want to take care that this incident doesn’t discourage people who are interested in becoming pilots.”