CLERMONT COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - A pilot flying back from a mission where he saved puppies from a kill shelter crash-landed his plane in a residential Greater Cincinnati neighborhood last weekend, after which some folks who checked to make sure he was alright invited him in for dinner.
Louisville-based Phillip Sullivan, 21, flies for Pilots N Paws, an organization that takes dogs from kill shelters to new, safe homes.
Last Saturday, Sullivan piloted his single-engine Piper plane and four puppies from Madison, In. to Wadsworth, Ohio. He delivered the puppies, then set upon his return journey.
That’s when things went wrong.
Sullivan’s plane suffered an engine failure somewhere above Miami Township in Clermont County, and he was forced to turn a residential road into a runway.
Miami Township resident Alex Salatin saw the whole thing.
“I looked up and I saw the plane coming down the street,” Salatin said, adding he hid behind a tree to keep safe from harm before helping the pilot out of the plane. “I watched it hit a mailbox. (...) It hit a lamppost, hit another mailbox and spun out in my neighbor’s front yard.”
Sullivan escaped unscathed, though the streetscape wasn’t quite so lucky. (In addition to taking out the lamppost and those mailboxes, he also stripped some bark off a tree, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol.)
But the young pilot admits his landing nearly got away from him.
“When I set up for that final [descent], I had cleared those trees for just 3 or 4 feet. So, had I hesitated for half a second or a second in my decision-making, I probably wouldn’t have walked away,” he said.
“It was instinct, kind of like training, you don’t... those decisions aren’t consciously registered. I mean, your mind just takes it in instantly and makes a quick decision. (...) If you hesitate, then you wouldn’t walk away.”
Instinct, perhaps, but Sullivan also credits training he took called short field takeoff and landing, or STAL, for saving his life.
Still, he says he’s never practiced maneuvering on such a narrow landing strip.
At least there was dinner afterwards.