A pilot’s worst nightmare
By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer
To have an engine go out in mid-flight is every pilot’s worst nightmare. And that is exactly what happened to Watford City-native Adam Taylor when he was en route to Mandan from Hillsboro on Friday, Feb. 12.
Twenty-seven-year-old Taylor, who has been around planes his entire life and who has had his pilot’s license for almost seven years, was flying a 1977 Thrush Ayres S2R (crop duster) plane. He had picked the plane up from Hillsboro after the plane had had some maintenance work done to it, and was flying it back to Mandan when he encountered trouble.
“I think there was water in the fuel,” said Taylor. “I was about 20 miles east of Bismarck when the engine started to go out. I was lucky to be close enough to the interstate to try and make it there. I was flying pretty low and I had to glide the plane down. I was over a pretty horrible spot - pasture with a bunch of hills. I was not feeling optimistic at all about landing safely.”
Taylor said it’s a pilot’s worst nightmare for an engine to quit. When his windows started to fog up, it was then that he realized just how heavy he was breathing. Fear and anxiety took over his body and he knew he needed to act fast. The nearest airport was 28 miles away in Bismarck. It was the interstate or nothing.
“There was tons of traffic on the interstate,” remembered Taylor. “And no one saw me. But I had no other option but to land on the interstate at that point. I had to put the plane down. When I was about 15 feet from landing, a car came driving right underneath me. I just started praying that no one else would come underneath me. I knew I’d either be hit or I’d literally land on top of a car.”
When Taylor glided onto the interstate, everyone behind him saw the landing and stopped their vehicles. Mike Berland, a tow truck driver with Zobadak Towing, was headed to Bismarck when he saw the plane descend down onto the interstate. He pulled over, right behind Taylor and the plane. He turned on his flashing lights atop his truck to warn traffic.
“Once I landed the plane, a tow truck diver turned his lights on and parked behind me,” stated Taylor. “I was really, really cold. There was no heat in the plane I was flying and it was probably five degrees out that day. I got out of the plane. The guy that was driving in front of me had parked his car and got out to help. He pushed the wing to try and get the plane moved over more into the ditch.”
Taylor said that the tow truck driver, Berland, got him inside his tow truck to warm up - not only himself, but his phone as well. Taylor said that his cell phone had died, because it was so cold. Once 911 was called, Taylor called his dad and his fiancee to let them know what had happened and that he and the plane were okay.
“I called my dad and my fiancee,” Taylor stated. “I told them I was okay and that the airplane was okay. My dad didn’t believe me at first. And my fiancee didn’t want me to spray anymore.”
The 1977 Thrush Ayres S2R crop duster landed in the westbound lane of I-94, near Sterling. Nobody was injured in the incident, and there was no damage sustained to the plane or any other vehicle. The plane was moved Saturday, Feb. 13.
“I was possibly going to try and fly the plane off the interstate, but the weather was getting pretty bad and a big snow storm was coming,” said Taylor. “We needed to get it out of the ditch.”
The plane was towed and hauled to a private air strip in Menoken. Then Taylor flew the plane back to the Watford City Municipal Airport on Thursday, Feb. 18.