SPANISH FORK — Joel Skousen isn't sure how many times he's piloted an airplane and landed safely.
But he certainly knows how many times he's crashed one.
"It's the first time I've done an accident, an engine-out landing to a field," said Skousen, 67.
The Orem pilot was on his way back home from a job in Las Vegas, when all of a sudden the engine quit.
“When I slowed down to put the landing gear down and went to put power back on, to reach speed, it wouldn’t come back up,” he said.
Skousen has a hangar at the Spanish Fork airport, but he knew he wasn’t going to make it to the runway.
“As a longtime pilot for many, many years, you read about a lot of accidents,” he said. “You're trained to go through these procedures of trying to get that engine restarted, throwing on the pumps, throwing the booster, checking the fuel. And so you really don't have time to panic because you are going through procedures."
His plane crashed into a horse field about a mile from the Spanish Fork airport, cart-wheeled, and ripped into two parts.
“I saw him turn toward the field so he could make an emergency landing in a field,” said James Perriton, who saw the airplane go down and called 911.
Mike Patey helps with Utah County's search and rescue team and just happened to be at his own hangar at the Spanish Fork airport when that 911 call came in.
When Patey arrived and first saw the wreckage, he thought there was no way someone could have survived.
"What a relief to find the guy still climbing out of the airplane coherent. Unbelievable," he said.
Skousen had a few cuts, scrapes, and bruises, but he walked away. He didn’t have to go to the hospital.
"I should be much more injured, but I’m not,” he said.2 comments on this story
Skousen said he thinks the plane had some sort of fuel pump problem.
Investigators took the wreckage to look for themselves.
The aircraft was homemade, built from a kit. Skousen says he bought it about a year ago and never had a problem with it.
He also says there was a moment, when he realized he was OK, that he got emotional.
“It’s really tough to go through an accident,” Skousen said. “I’m very blessed. There’s no other way to describe coming out of that with only a couple of scratches."
Contributing: Pat Reavy