A 76-year-old pilot from Highland Park was killed when he crashed his small plane in a field while trying to make an emergency landing at the Racine airport. No one else was on board.
Phillip Pines, a retired executive of the Great Dane company, avoided subdivisions in the area as his plane went down Monday evening -- a move authorities called "heroic."
"Mr. Pines acted in a heroic manner by attempting to land the plane in an area that was open and avoided several populated subdivisions not far from where the crash occurred," Mount Pleasant police said in a release.
The plane crashed around 6:30 p.m. about 2 1/2 miles from the Batten International Airport inRacine, according to FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.
Pines had taken off from Central Wisconsin Airport and was headed to Waukegan when he started experiencing fuel problems about 10 miles west of
"He reported difficulty in maintaining altitude and he attempted to divert to theRacine airport," said David Stroube, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.
Pines left an "indelible mark" on the Great Dane company and pushed to solidify its position in the industry, according to William Crown, president and chief executive officer of Great Dane.
"He left an indelible mark on our company, successfully ingraining into the organization a culture of strength and excellence," he said in a statement.
Pines began his career in 1958 working alongside his father, Leo Pines, at their Monon Trailer dealership, according to the company. He and his father began refurbishing trailers and started their own company, Pines Trailer Corp., in 1965.
In 1970, Phill Pines purchased a foundry in Kewanee Illinois which had previously been used to make torpedoes duringWWII to manufacture trailers.
Phill Pines led the family business for 25 years before forming a partnership with the Crown family in 1988. In 1997, the partnership acquired Great Dane Trailers and Pines became president and chief operating officer of the partnership. He retired at the end of 2010 and in a retirement video the company was noted as the second largest trailer manufacurer in the world.
Pete Premo met Pines about six years when Premo was selling his airplane hangar at the Baraboo-Dells Flight Center. Premo, also a pilot, said the two became close friends and would often see each other around the airport.
He said Pines did not begin flying until he was in his 60s. He said he and Pines had flown to Minnesota to have lunch recently.
Over the years, Pines had acquired about half a dozen planes. The plane that crashed was bought last year. He said Pines bought the plane because it was able to travel all the way to Florida without refueling. Premo estimated that it sold for about $3.5 million.
He said that Pines owned 2,500 acres of land in Wisconsin because he had a passion for nature and for pheasant hunting.
But for all his wealth, Pines treated everyone with respect, Premo said. He recalled that he would great everyone from the person who filled up the gas tanks of the planes to high ranking businessmen with equal deference.
"He was very down to earth and very unassuming and unpretentious."
Pines was married to Joan Pines, his college sweetheart at the University of Michigan. He had one daughter and three sons.
Pines and his wife Joan were founding members of Am Shalom in Glencoe, said Founding Rabbi Harold Kudan who met with the family today.
"Phillip Pines was a fine, fine man – it's a tragedy...He was a good man with so many outstanding qualities. He was concerned about the environment, he was concerned about people. He was interested in so many things," said Kudan. "He was recently retired. He told me recently he was so busy he didn't know what to do first."
Freelance reporter Susan Berger contributed.