UI mechanics look into cause of plane's engine failure

UI mechanics look into cause of plane's engine failure

SAVOY – University of Illinois aviation mechanics are trying to figure out what caused a UI training airplane's engine to fail Saturday, forcing the pilot and student to make an off-field landing.

Neither the instructor nor the student was injured in the landing, which occurred about 10:40 a.m. Saturday just south of Willard Airport in Savoy, according to Ginny Davis, assistant director of the UI Institute of Aviation.

"They had complete engine failure about a quarter-mile southeast of the airport. The instructor landed it safely. There were no injuries," said Davis.

The instructor was Omer Benn of Champaign, a veteran pilot who has given check rides to thousands of pilots over the years. Davis declined to identify the female student.

Benn, a member of the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame, retired several years ago but was rehired by the institute to help with an instructor shortage, Davis said.

"I can't think of anyone I would have rather had with me if I were that student," Davis said.

Davis said employees of Flightstar, the fixed-base operator at Willard, were able to get the single-engine Piper Archer out of the soybean field near U.S. 45 and County Road 900 N with little difficulty.

"They literally pulled it out of the field and down (U.S.) 45," she said, adding it was safely back at the airport by about 2 p.m. Saturday.

The Federal Aviation Administration's Flight Standards District Office in Springfield declared the off-field landing an "incident" as opposed to an accident so no investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board is required, Davis said.

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