Pilot rescued after rough mountain landing
March 21, 1994
Steamboat Springs — A Utah pilot who crash-landed his plane in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area Friday escaped injury, and was located and retrieved by rescue crews Saturday.
Gerald Willbur of Logan, Utah, was on a flight from Sidney, Neb., to Craig when the crash occurred Friday night.
Willbur, 59, told rescuers when he saw he could not make the plane cross over a ridge about 200 feet away, he cut the throttle and set the plane down on a snowfield.
Gut Loughridge, a member of Routt County Search and Rescue group said Willbur broke off the plane's main gear in the landing in a snowfield at 11,200 feet. A cornice of snow was overhanging the plane where it came to rest.
Willbur had faced severe wind conditions, according to the Colorado wing of the Civil Air Patrol. Down-drafts and strong headwinds forced him to make the stalled landing 10 miles due east of Steamboat Springs, the air patrol said in a press release.
Reports of a downed Cessna 150 aircraft came to the Routt County Sheriff's office at approximately 8:30 p.m.
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When he ran into the wind problems he attempted to radio for help, but was unable to reach anyone due to the climactic conditions. He was aware his Emergency Locator Transponder was functioning, so he took appropriate survival steps to ensure his own safety while awaiting rescue.
"We were tracking signals all night,"
Loughridge said. "About 50 to 75 people were involved, from both sides of the mountain.
The deep snow in the area hampered initial efforts to reach Willbur, although he did have survival gear and weathered the night in the wilderness area :in fine shape," noted Capt Alan Beshany of the air patrol.
The downed aircraft was located Saturday by a helicopter on loan from military authorities and it was extracted from the site of the landing. Upon reaching the Steamboat Airport where an ambulance was waiting, he refused any medical attention, the patrol said.
"He was only interested in seeing his son. He was not injured in the landing, and did not suffer any exposure from his night in the Rockies," Beshany said.
The rescue effort involved members of Routt County Search & Rescue, Jackson County Search and Rescue, the Civil Air Patrol, and the Civil Air Patrol Ground Search and Rescue Unit.