Cessna airplane crashes in Merced County

MERCED, Calif.

The Cessna came down in a field at Bellevue Road near highway 59 around 6:30 pm Saturday.

It's owned by the Sierra Academy of Aeronautics out of Castle Air Base. An official with the flight school said the pilot was a student who was flying for his required solo flight hours.

What everyone is waiting to figure out now is exactly what type of engine failure brought this plane down.

The plane crashed into a wide open field. Another pilot flying nearby spotted the flipped over aircraft.

Merced County Fire Department Battalion Chief Gabriel Santos said, "The pilot was circling in the area and the ground resources in the area noticed that. He was able to communicate with the tower exactly where the air craft had gone down."

Santos says once fire fighters located the plane the pilot was already out of the wreckage walking around on his own.

"The pilot was standing outside the aircraft and stated that he was a solo pilot, no passengers and that he was fine," Santos said.

Santos says the pilot reported touching down safely, but the plane only made it about 30 feet before hitting an irrigation ditch.

The front tire buckled causing the plane to flip over.

"It sounded like the pilot did a great job with reporting the incident and just being able to put the aircraft safely on the ground before the engine completely died out," Santos said.

The pilot is said to be doing well.

The flight school says he was performing his last of 10 required solo flight hours when the plane went down.

Emergency responders say it's amazing the plane didn't catch fire. The overturned plane will remain in the field until investigators with the NTSB arrive on Monday to begin their assessment of what brought the plane down.

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