Sparks Pilot OK After Crashing Plane

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A Sparks man is lucky to be alive after crash landing his single engine plane at the stead airport late this morning.

Gary Smith barely had a scratch on him, despite crashing his single-engine plane into a field next to one of the airport's runways.

It was Smith's first time flying a plane solo and he'll be the first to tell you this small crash could have been much worse.

"I should've gone up earlier," says Smith. "It was too windy. I got off the ground about 50 feet up and it just broke loose and there was nothing I could do to correct it."

Heavy winds took control of Gary Smith's ultra-light aircraft, just minutes after take off. The Sparks pilot says friends tried to warn him about poor flying conditions, but he didn't listen. Smith says it's a decision that nearly cost him his life and much more.

"I ended up heading for the houses and the planes and I knew I had to bring it back," says Smith. "But every time I brought it back it threw me somewhere else. It was inexperience I suppose. But I knew I had to bring it down and in the end I brought it onto the runway and just brought it down."

The crash left deep grooves on the runway and a small cut on Smith's leg.

Airport officials are investigating the incident, and may pass their report on to the FAA.

One witness says he saw the plane cut off another aircraft just before taking off.

"The next thing I knew he was coming toward the ground," says Wayne Irwin, a pilot who witnessed the crash. "I guess he got leveled off a bit, but he hit a cloud of dust, but actually he skid onto the runway."

Airport officials closed down the runway for several minutes to clean up the wreckage and tow the plane.

Despite the big scare, Smith says he's learned his lesson and he plans on flying again.

"It just threw me from one side to the other like a butterfly. But I'll know better next time. Go early in the morning and a bit more experience. That's about it really."

Smith says he plans on repairing his plane and even though he will be flying again so, it will probably be with an instructor.