News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 27, 2013

Small plane lands safely in farm field

Two men was flying from Wisconsin to Mississippi on business

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Two Wisconsin men walked away from an emergency landing on Thursday in a harvested corn field along Ryman Road, about a quarter of a mile east of Indiana 63 South in Vigo County.

Pilot Lee Schmalz said the plane’s engine developed problems, forcing him to look for a place to land.

“There were too many trees around Terre Haute’s airport, and this looked like a good place,” Schmalz said of the corn field.

Clark Cottom, Vigo County chief deputy sheriff, said the pilot radioed into Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field that he was experiencing engine trouble and requested an emergency landing, but could not make the airport. The airport then notified emergency responders, Cottom said.

Schmalz and passenger Joe Kobussen, who are next door neighbors in Kaukauna, Wis., located about 22 miles southwest of Green Bay, were headed to Mississippi on a business trip.

The plane was flying at about 7,000 feet when the four-cylinder 1974 Piper Arrow’s engine developed trouble, about four miles from where they landed.

The plane “was shaking, and there was smoke in the cabin,” Schmalz said.

“I was very nervous,” Kobussen said. “It happened so fast. I just trusted in Lee that he knew what he was doing. The landing was really nice. Lee put it down really well.”

Schmalz, a pilot since 1969, said he has had to make other emergency landings.

“You just have to be ready, and you do a lot of practicing for this type of thing,” he said.

After landing, Schmalz said he examined the plane and found a piston rod had pushed through the side of the engine. Kobussen said that before the landing the two had planned to set down within a half hour to refuel.

The red plane, which landed upright about 3:15 p.m., will be towed off the field for repairs. The two, Kobussen said, expected to rent a car to return to Wisconsin. The cornfield is owned Larry Hunt of Sullivan County, Cottom said. The was no damage to the property.

The Federal Aviation Administration advised the sheriff’s department it planned to inspect the plane Thursday evening, Cottom said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or