A single-engine plane crash-landed about a minute after it took off Tuesday evening from Fullerton Municipal Airport in the third such accident this fall. No one was hurt.
The pilot, Hal Woodruff, 43, of Chino Hills, said he felt his plane, a $60,000 red and white Cessna 180, lose power less than a minute after takeoff when he was about 50 feet in the air. He had been headed for Big Bear Lake.
Cleared for emergency landing by the control tower, Woodruff regained power by hitting the throttle, turned the plane around, squeezed his craft through two buildings, landed on the runway and skidded through the chain-link fence that surrounds the airport.
The plane came to rest in the middle of the 6200 block of Dale Avenue.
"There isn't really any time to feel anything; you just do," said Woodruff, who has been flying since 1975. "It happened right after we left the ground."
After two small, private planes crashed at the Fullerton airport within eight days during October, Buena Park Mayor Rhonda J. McCune called for closing the airport or at least the banning of takeoffs and landings over her city.
There have been 21 crashes at or near Fullerton Municipal Airport since 1985, killing five people and injuring eight. The airport opened in 1927.
As they sat in the back of a police car peering out at his plane, whose nose and left wing were crushed in the crash, Woodruff and his companion, Cindy Shipman, 30, of Whittier, realized that they had not even had a chance to be scared during the crash-landing. It was about three minutes from the moment he realized he had lost power until the plane finally came to a stop, Woodruff said.
"It felt kind of unreal," said Shipman, a Chino Hills elementary school teacher who is working toward her pilot's license. "You don't really think it's happening, but you do things in case it is."
The plane was leaking fuel, and the strong smell of gasoline filled the air near the accident site, but no fire or explosion occurred. Woodruff said he shifted the fuel from both tanks to the right-hand tank to avoid an explosion if he hit the ground.
The plane remained in the middle of the street for some time before the Fire Department's hazardous materials team and officials from the federal Aviation Administration arrived on the scene to investigate the accident.