The mission: Get a Cessna 152 II out of a backyard swimming pool at the San Fernando Valley home of Carl C. Scharfenburg.
"Piece o' cake," said Jack Vandeman, an employee with National Aircraft Parts Sales Inc. of Long Beach. "This is a fun job."
In fact, Vandeman said, the toughest part of Wednesday morning's task was waiting for the crane that eventually lifted the single-engine aircraft from the shallow end of Scharfenburg's swimming pool.
The plane and its occupants made an unexpected splash in the pool behind Scharfenburg's home in the 16600 block of Parthenia Street in Sepulveda about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday after a takeoff from nearby Van Nuys Airport. Pilot Charles Pickett, 46, and his son, Larry, 25, both of North Hollywood escaped with minor cuts and bruises.
The cause of the engine failure is being investigated by the National Transportation and Safety Board.
Has Passion for Planes
Scharfenburg, a Navy mechanic with a passion for planes, laughed at the idea of a plane falling into his pool.
But getting it out was another matter.
There wasn't enough room to maneuver around the house, so Vandeman got a 35-ton hydraulic crane with a 105-foot boom from Champion Crane Co. of Chatsworth to lift the aircraft out of the pool, over the house and onto the front lawn. The wings on the $13,000 plane were sawed off before the aircraft was hauled away.
The job took about four hours, most of that time spent pumping fuel out of the plane and a few hundred gallons of water out of the pool. The operation was paid for by King Aviation, owner of the plane.
Expert in Salvage
Mike Konle, owner of Champion Crane, which is often called upon to salvage wreckage because of the company's proximity to Van Nuys Airport, said the oddest landing he has handled occurred several months ago near Pomona, when a single-engine got caught in a web of power lines and remained suspended in mid-air.
"This is our first pool," he said.
Scharfenburg's wife, Lois, wants the propeller for the family mantel and their son, Carl, posed alongside the pool with a pith helmet and musket.
"I'm going to send it to my hometown paper in Deer River, Minn.," Mrs. Scharfenburg said. "The caption will be: opening day of hunting season in L. A. Back there they hunt deer and ducks. Here we hunt planes.
"They all think people in L. A. are crazy, anyhow."