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Fly By Night airport wasn't on pilot's radar

I was glad to see the Cessna pilot who put down in the Applegate Valley wasn't injured. I've seen reference to an airport not far from Ruch on maps, and it occurred to me that spot might have made for a better landing.

— Ron J., Medford

It seems the privately owned Fly By Night airport may have been an obvious choice to someone with local knowledge. It was less than two miles, almost due north, of the location at 1170 Hamilton Road where a Grants Pass pilot made an emergency landing Sunday and then flipped the plane when it hit a "pothole" in the hay field.

The pilot, James Nance, had contacted the Medford airport tower about his engine problems and was hoping to make it another 14 air miles to the local airfield.

"I think he made the right choice," Airport Director Bern Case said. "When you're in trouble, you can't be looking around for a place you're not sure about. I was out there about 15 years ago for a pancake breakfast, and finding (Fly By Night) is hard even on a good day when you know what you're looking for."

Case said finding a flat, solid landing zone is the key in emergencies.

"Pilots pick up on things like that on flights," he said. "Even when they don't have problems, they are always looking for the opportune place."

The area sees about one such emergency landing per year on average, Case said. And mechanical or fuel problem are the usual culprits.

"The reason our airport was contacted was that we've got a fire department with all the right equipment," he said. "When the pilot saw he couldn't get here, he didn't mess around. You can give up altitude for speed, but when you are running out of altitude, you've got to find a place to land."

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.