By Theresa Ekdom
HOUGHTON LAKE – It was a beautiful day for the Annual Dawn Patrol Fly-in at the Houghton Lake State Airport Saturday, July 2. Blue sky, brats and hotdogs on the grill for lunch, and fresh fried donuts were what people expected, along with an opportunity to take a plane ride.
At least that’ what Sawyer Lewis, Kirk Bolt, and Ashley Stover expected. All family members, they planned to spend the holiday weekend at their cottage on the north shore of Houghton Lake. They had also attended the fly-in for the past 10 years.
This year they got a little more excitement than usual when the plane crashed during what appeared to be a normal landing.
Troopers from the Houghton Lake State Police (MSP) post said in a release that the single-engine Piper, operated by a 66-year-old Grayling man, hit the fence at the south end of the airport.
“The pilot stated he began his approach and was caught by a downdraft,” according to the release. “After hitting the fence, the front wheel of the aircraft was bent backwards into the body of the aircraft causing it to skid on the nose of the plane. The aircraft came to rest approximately 100 yards north of the initial impact. The aircraft remained upright during the skid.”
During the landing, everything seemed normal GÇª Until it wasn’t.
‘We were coming in slow,’ Bolt said, ‘Just before landing, we did a nose dive into the dirt.’
Bolt figures they hit a down draft causing the nose to drop. When it did, the wings hit the fence.
‘The pilots are all awesome,’ Karri Lewis of Pierson, Sawyer’ mom, said. ‘We knew within seconds they were OK.’
‘All the golfers came over to see if we were OK,’ said Stover, of Williamston.
The three, along with the Grayling pilot, walked away with scratches.
The plane crash experience won’t deter them from coming back to the fly-in, nor from taking a flight in the future.
‘People get back in cars (after an accident), amusement rides, anything,’ Karri said.
‘It’ a fun event, thrilling. It makes me want to be a pilot,’ she added of the fly-in.
‘We would all go again,’ Sawyer added.
Police notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the incident remains under investigation.
Au Sable Media attempted to contact the FAA but could not reach an open office.
The Houghton Lake State Airport was opened in April of 1940. It averages about 50 operations per month, according to the (FAA).