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Crash grounds aviator, for now

SHARE Crash grounds aviator, for now

David Silfvast said he'll be back up in the sky just as soon as he fixes his crashed stunt plane.

The aircraft was damaged during a 1,500 foot fall and crash landing Sunday.Silfvast was enjoying the warm morning flying stunts in his Starduster Too over Utah Lake. Stunts like the Hammerhead - where the pilot flies straight up until the momentum stops, then turns around and flies straight down - kept him busy for about 30 minutes until he turned his plane toward home.

He didn't make it to West Jordan's Airport No. 2. Instead he crash landed in a South Jordan field.

It was the weekend's second airplane crash. But unlike the plane collision Saturday near West Point that killed three people, Silfvast walked away unhurt.

Silfvast was alone in his plane as he turned northward to go home Sunday. The single-prop plane is one he loves and trusts - one he takes his 10 children up in. He started building it in 1968 and began flying it in the early 1980s.

He never had real problems with the plane, nothing that the 30-year airplane mechanic at Hill Air Force Base couldn't fix.

But he was cruising along at about 1,500 feet toward Airport No. 2 when he realized something was wrong.

"I had just crossed over the Point of the Mountain and I looked down at the gauges and noticed the oil temperature rising and the oil pressure dropping," he said. "I knew I was in trouble."

He was about four miles south of the airport when the engine quit and, flying too slowly to land, he started a dive to increase the plane's speed.

A South Jordan field became the impromptu runway. The plane hit the ground going too fast and went back up before coming down again.

Part of the landing gear collapsed, and Silfvast turned the plane to avoid a fence and the nose hit the ground. The 50-year-old wasn't injured when the plane flipped over frontward and came to land on its top.

Five straps, used by aerobatic pilots to stay in their seats while they conduct their maneuvers, kept him in his seat until the ordeal was over.

By the time he got himself unbuckled, a man who "saw me go down but didn't see me go back up" was on the scene.

He estimates less than two minutes had passed from the time the airplane's engine quit until he was dangling upside down on the ground.

Did his life flash before his eyes?

"I was too busy flying the airplane" to notice, he said.

He has since found out the cause of the problem: a broken piston. The self-avowed airplane buff will fix the craft himself and hopes to have it back in the sky next spring.

In Saturday's accident, three men were killed in northern Davis County when two planes collided in midair. Pilot Keith McArthur, 53, West Valley City; his son, Christopher McArthur, 28; and a family friend, Richard Hansen, 69, of Murray, were all killed.

The National Transportation Safety Board is on the scene investigating the cause of that crash. The men were part of a group that had flown to Ogden for breakfast. The men were in two planes returning to Salt Lake City when the victims' Cessna clipped the other plane.

Bill Aaron, West Point, was in his backyard when the planes collided. He told the Associated Press he watched the plane fall from the sky.

"When it hit the ground, it was a fireball, like a mushroom cloud. At that point we just looked to see if anybody had bailed out, but I think the force was too great," he said.