Windsor pilot who survived corn field landing camps overnight with plane
'I couldn’t put somebody else in jeopardy because of my emergency, so I decided I would try to find a field'
John Cundle was out on a routine flight Thursday night in his two-seater plane when things took a serious turn.
"I had just overflew Centralia [Ont.] and was headed back to Windsor and my engine stopped," said Cundle.
The 54-year-old Windsor man had to prepare for what would be an emergency landing in a St. Clair Township cornfield. Cundle earned his pilot's licence in April, and thanks to recent night-training courses, knew exactly what to do.
"I had a fair bit of altitude, I was at about 4,500 ft. so I had some time to make sure that everything was in order," he said. "I made my mayday call to let them know that I was in distress."
Cundle said he was told to go to Sarnia's airport, but he knew he wouldn't be able to glide that far without engine power. In the middle of a dark sky, Cundle had to make an important decision.
"I could land on a highway — and I did look over there and think for a second — but I couldn't put somebody else in jeopardy because of my emergency, so I decided I would try to find a field," he said.
In the dark, Cundle could see the bright lights from various towers around him but he was more afraid of hitting a hydro pole and wires or a building he couldn't see. He looked for the darkest possible area to make his landing.
"When I saw the top of the corn at first I thought it was grass so I was very excited that i found a grass field but that excitement only lasted a very short amount of time," he said. " I felt the corn brush against the bottom of the plane."
The corn stalks helped to slow down Cundle's plane, which he calls 'Hasel," and came to a full stop in about 38 metres. He immediately got on a radio to let authorities knew where he was.
"I noticed a light up in the air and at first I thought it was a helicopter doing a search," said Cundle, who explained that the light he saw was on the firefighter's ladder truck as they tried to find him.
Officers, firefighters and EMS all met Cundle, who walked away unscathed after the intense ordeal.
"I'm very thankful that everything worked out," he said. "Training, training, training is so vital."
Keeping Hasel safe
On Monday night, Hasel was still sitting in the field, but the farmers who owned the land cut down the cornstalks around the plane so that it may be towed away.
Cundle spent the night with his Hasel to make sure no one damaged the aircraft.
"I just don't want any temptation to be there." he said, explaining he's on the watch for potential Devil's Night pranksters.
Cundle has already been back in the air since the incident, and is looking forward to getting Hasel back up and running.
"If I was to give any advice to any pilot who was in this situation — just fly your airplane. Don't give up, and fly it until you're safely on the ground."