Woman, 78, makes safe emergency plane landing in field near St. Louis

Saturday, April 21, 2007

NEW MELLE, Mo. -- A cut below the nose was all 78-year-old Emma Hanner had to show after being forced to make an emergency landing of her small plane in a field west of St. Louis.

The propeller on the two-seater suddenly stopped in mid-air Thursday, forcing the grandmother of five to bring it down in a muddy farm field near New Melle in St. Charles County.

"It just quit," said Hanner. "When the propeller on the front of the plane goes around, it keeps the pilot cool. But when it stops, that's when the pilot starts to sweat."

In nearly four decades of flying, Hanner said she has never before made an emergency landing.

She recently moved to Denver from Lexington, N.C., to be closer to her children. A few days ago, she returned to Lexington to ferry back her 1970 Grumman AA1.

She spent Wednesday night in Southern Illinois and headed out of the town of Carmi about 11 a.m. She needed gasoline and decided to stop at the airport in Washington, Mo., about 50 miles southwest of St. Louis.

The engine gave out as she was crossing rural St. Charles County. Fortunately, there were plenty of open spaces below her.

As the plane hit the ground, one wheel dipped into an irrigation ditch and buckled underneath the plane. That bent the plane's nose down and spun it around, Hanner said, jolting her forward with her face hitting the steering yoke.

A passer-by saw the plane and called police. The Federal Aviation Department will investigate.

Hanner said she plans to fly again, but worries about what her children would say about the crash.

No need to worry. Daughter Carol Hanner said the family won't ground her, at least not yet.

"We will wait for the official findings before we have that family discussion," Carol Hanner, an editor at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, said.

She said her mother caught the flying bug after her son learned to fly at 15. The son, Dale Hanner, was in the Air Force and is now a commercial pilot.

Emma Hanner planned to have the plane repaired. She'll come back to Missouri and get it, then fly home.

"I love that plane," she said.

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