A pilot was taken to a hospital with serious injuries after a small plane made an emergency landing Monday morning in a wooded area in the Palatka area, authorities said.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, a single-engine, experimental aircraft from the Putnam County area was departing from Palatka Municipal Airport, also known as Kay Larkin Field, on Reid Street, around 8 a.m. when the pilot — a 55-year-old man from Franklin, Tennessee — experienced mechanical failure and attempted to circle back to the airport but had to make an emergency landing.
The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said the pilot called 911 around 8:10 a.m. to report he was having issues with his plane and was trying to return to the airport. But, deputies said, the call cut off, prompting a search of the area near the airport. Air assets, including a helicopter and another plane, were sent to look for the wreckage, but the tree canopy was too heavy, deputies said. The pilot was eventually able to use his cellphone to call 911 again, and first responders were able to ping his phone in the area of Browns Lane near the airport, find him and pull him from his plane shortly after 9:30 a.m., deputies said.
News4JAX was initially told that the pilot, the only occupant of the plane at the time of the crash, was flown, “as a precaution,” to HCA Florida Orange Park Hospital with various cuts and bruises. But a news release from FHP described the pilot’s injuries as serious.
The Highway Patrol is investigating, and the National Transportation Safety Board has been notified.