Southeast Missouri man escapes injury when plane goes down near Carbondale, Ill.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Matt Hillis, general manager of Larry Hillis Dodge in Poplar Bluff, Mo., was returning home from Indianapolis, Ind., when the engine of his Columbia 400 airplane started losing oil pressure.

The 28-year-old Poplar Bluff man escaped injury when he made an emergency landing in a "soft field" near Carbondale, Ill., around noon Friday, but the plane was damaged.

"I was flying at cruise altitude at 10,000 feet when the engine started to malfunction," Hillis said Saturday. "I was directed to the nearest airport at Carbondale."

Hillis said he was about 20 miles from the airport when he turned the plane around.

"The engine completely locked up so I tried to find a field or road where I could lay the plane down," Hillis said.

He decided he couldn't land on the road due to the power lines so he chose to land in a pasture on the Southern Illinois University Farm 5-6 miles southwest of Carbondale.

"The field was extremely soft. I was fortunate the plane did not flip," Hillis said. "I tried to stop as quickly as possible, but it went across the road at 10 miles per hour."

It came to a stop on the other side of Pleasant Hill Road about one-tenth of a mile north of Union Hill Road. Fortunately, no vehicles were on the road at that time.

Illinois State Police, the sheriff's department and ambulance personnel responded to the scene.

"I walked away," said Hillis, who didn't even get a scratch.

Hillis, who has been flying for more than two years, said he was getting ready to descend when the engine trouble started. He starts his descent when he is 90 miles from the Poplar Bluff Municipal Airport. He is thankful his pilot training paid off so he could make an emergency landing.

Pleasant Hill Road was blocked until the plane could be removed.

"A crane arrived, the wings were disassembled and the plane was lifted on a flat bed trailer," Hillis said. It was hauled to the Carbondale Airport where the Federal Aviation Administration will conduct an investigation.

Hillis called a pilot friend who flew to Carbondale to give him a ride home. He arrived back in Poplar Bluff at 4 p.m.

The plane is owned by Larry Hillis Dodge. While on a business trip to Indianapolis, Matt also saw his friend, Tyler Hansbrough, play during an Indiana Pacers game.

Pertinent address:

Poplar Bluff, MO

Carbondale, IL

Map of pertinent addresses

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