Civilian Plane Lands at Hunter - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

09/01/04

Civilian Plane Lands at Hunter

A pilot had the scare of his life when he was forced to land at Hunter Army Airfield this afternoon. Jerry Riter and his son Glenn were flying home to Florida when they suddenly had to make an emergency landing. This two-man crew not only had to deal with electrical malfunctions; when they landed, they also had to deal with military police.

"We had electrical failure in flight, lost a radio, we were terribly low on fuel and had to come back from 50 miles south of here and we took the first airport we could find," Jerry explained. 

Worried they might have to crash land their plane, the two man crew knew they had to act fast. "If you look at this from the air, there's nothing but swamp and anything that looks like concrete looks pretty good," Jerry told us.

Acting as copilot and navigator, Glenn thought they were landing at Savannah-Hilton Head International until they noticed things looked a bit different. "When we landed and we were looking around to find somewhere to park, a truck pulls up in front of us, MPs pull aside us and we're going, 'Uh, I think we landed in the wrong place,'" he recalled.

But military officials say, this isn't the first time civilian pilots have made this mistake. "It's not the norm, but maybe twice a year we get an aircraft to declare a distress signal, thinking they're at the international and land here," said SFC Raymond Burch.

Despite all the electrical failures, the Riters' landing was a success. "We'll make it home in one piece, no problem at all," Jerry said. "This is an old airplane. It was built back in 1957, it's been flying ever since."

Military officials will keep Jerry's plane until he shows proof on insurance, then he'll be free to fly back home to Florida.

Reported by: Nicole Teigen, nteigen@wtoc.com

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