Three Coloradoans flying home from the West Coast crash-landed in a single-engine aircraft during a heavy snowstorm Wednesday northwest of Moab, then walked nearly a mile to the airport.
The pilot, Dr. Larry Bookman, 46; his wife, Margy, 39; and daughter, Harper, 19 - all of Steamboat Springs, Colo. - were not injured, and only minor damage to the private plane was reported.A dispatcher at the regional operations center of the Federal Aviation Administration said the landing in a field west of the Canyonlands Airport was reported at 1:38 p.m. The Grand County Sheriff's Office and the Salt Lake office of the FAA were investigating.
Bookman, a physician at Routt Memorial Hospital in Steamboat Springs, said he suspected some type of mechanical failure caused the engine to suddenly lose power at about 15,000 feet. He was flying by instrument in heavy clouds and snow when "we just lost power."
Ron Lindgren of Redtail Aviation helped direct the pilot by radio away from Arches National Park southwest of the airport and some large buttes directly south to a clearing about three-quarters of a mile west of the landing strip where the plane came down.
Lindgren said he heard the plane go over the airport but was unable to see it because of heavy snowfall. Larry Bookman said there was no visibility until the plane was several hundred feet above the ground.
"I've never crashed before. It was my first attempt at crashing," he joked with reporters. Larry Bookman is a former Navy flight surgeon and has held a pilot's license for 20 years.
"I'm not sure what happened," Larry Bookman said. "I figure the turbo-charger had a meltdown. I was trying to keep the airplane from going upside down, but nothing seemed to do much until we got real low, and then we got full power back. I started to climb again and it started losing power again."
Larry Bookman had lowered the landing gear but when the plane started to lose power again, he decided to drop the plane on its belly and skim the ground rather than push for altitude. His wife estimated the plane skidded about half a mile before coming to a stop.