Modesto resident Charlene Fulton, who was flying a Cessna 172 from the Modesto City-County Airport, said she was ascending over Patterson at about 1,200 feet when the engine gave out, and the plane started to glide. When she landed the plane in the open alfalfa field, the front wheel landed in a hole, flipping the airplane over, according to a release from Sgt. Anthony Bejaran of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.
Fulton and an unidentified male passenger were walking in the field without a scratch shortly before noon Tuesday, though paramedics treated Fulton at the scene when she suffered pain in her leg after they received word of the crash at 11:03 a.m.
“They did a good job,” said Chief Steve Hall of the Patterson Fire Department and West Stanislaus County Fire Protection District, regarding Fulton and her passenger. “That’s an experienced pilot.”
The pilot said she and her passenger were taking photographs of land west of Almond Avenue, seeking to ascend to an elevation of 1,400 feet, when the plane lost power and she began to look for an open field for an emergency landing.
The alfalfa field on the 2300 block of Almond Avenue was the perfect place to land, she said.
Fulton said she has flown for about 20 years, and this was the first time she has ever crashed.
“That’s why we practice emergency procedures, should this day ever come,” she said.
The single-engine airplane ended up upside down in an alfalfa field about 200 yards from the roadway, according to Bejaran.
Though most of the plane remained intact, the propeller and front of the plane were damaged and caked with mud and the tail appeared crunched.
“I hate to see Phoebe like that,” Fulton said of the Cessna, noting that she had named all of her planes.
Both Fulton and her passenger were able to get out of the plane on their own, though they were hanging upside down in their seat belts and first. They notified the Modesto Airport flight tower, indicating that they had gone down.
The sheriff’s department notified the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board, according to Bejaran. However, a California Highway Patrol officer at the scene indicated the FAA would not investigate the crash.
Fulton expressed gratitude at the scene for coming away from the crash in such good condition.
“We fly with God’s guidance,” Fulton said. “The guardian angels — we’re up there keeping them busy.”
• Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187, ext. 26, or firstname.lastname@example.org.