Fairfield Union graduate helps rescue pilot after plane crash

PALATKA, FL – Bremen native Connor Cvetan, a flight student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, was recently preparing for a flight competition with a fellow student and instructor near Palatka, Florida.

The team had practiced landing, nearly 40 miles north of Daytona. Everything had gone as planned, until a call came through on the emergency frequency: someone was in trouble.

Cvetan, a 2019 Fairfield Union High School graduate, and his team tracked the plane in question, a small single-propeller plane, as it crashed. Its pilot, Jim Goolsby, reported that his engine had failed and he was still about three miles from the airport.

“Pilots simulate engine failures all the time, to practice what would happen in a real situation. This was not simulated, and as the aircraft had been flagged as experimental, it appeared there was potentially more danger,” Cvetan said.

He explained that the term “experimental” generally indicates that an aircraft was built at home or from a kit. The team spotted the plane and followed it as it went down.

“We watched it spiral down, before it landed in a factory retention pond. It was a bit surreal. It was like watching a small car speed through water: no huge splash, but it could have been worse,” Cvetan mentioned. “It made my heart sink again. Crashes like this are a wake-up call for drivers, and everyone else, to stay alert. Crashes can happen and you can’t be too complacent.”

Cvetan and his team remained in the area after the accident, reporting the coordinates of the accident to emergency services. They could see Goolsby standing over his plane and providing updates as needed.

“At the time, we had been in the air for some time and were running out of fuel ourselves. There was another team from the university in their own plane, so we gave them the coordinates and took off. “, says Cvetan. “Factory workers were out. He couldn’t leave the plane because there was a big alligator swimming in the pond, but we heard he was picked up by a helicopter from the U.S. Navy, then taken away for treatment.”

He said Goolsby emailed the university, thanking the students and the flight instructor for their help.

A retired line captain with more than 60 years of flying experience, Goolsby told college he plans to fly again but warned other pilots to ‘always, always, always’ wear their suspenders .

For Cvetan, helping a fellow pilot meant a lot. Simulated crashes are different from the real thing, and his training was usually about crashing his own plane, not witnessing the crash of another.

“Accidents are one of the realities of flying, however. Embry-Riddle sends tons of pilots, with thousands of combined flight hours, and our maintenance crews keep the fleet very well maintained,” he said. he declares. “We are trained to help each other, but the training was always helpful in helping Mr Goolsby.”

Barrett Lawlis is a reporter for the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, part of the USA Today Network. You can share story ideas or comments with him at 740-681-4342 or email [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BarrettLawlis

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