A Soviet-era Antonov An-2 “Colt” biplane crashed on final approach to San Bernardino International Airport after its engine failed. The “Big Panda,” as this particular aircraft is known, struck powerlines and flipped over onto its top, coming to rest in a field a block away from a local elementary school. The pilot and co-pilot were not injured in the incident and were seen walking away from the aircraft.
A single-engine, Soviet-era biplane crashed in a field near Ninth Street and Lankershim Avenue on Friday about a block from Lankershim Elementary School.
The 1940s-era Russian-manufactured Antonov An-2 biplane crash-landed upside down in an empty field near the school, authorities at the scene said.
The pilot and single passenger were seen walking away from the wreckage.
According to the San Bernardino City Unified School District Twitter account, no one at the nearby school was hurt.
“The engine quit,” pilot Cliff Heathcoat said of the routine landing approach to San Bernardino International Airport that turned into an emergency. “I thought we had the airport made. But when we got closer, it was obvious we weren’t going to make it.”
Heathcoat said he tried everything he could think of to restart the engine: working the throttle, switching ignition systems, and trying different fuel tanks.
“I was running out of options,” he recalled. So he focused on making a forced landing in the only open field in a congested neighborhood just north of the airport.
Reaching that field compelled Heathcoat to stretch the airplane’s gliding characteristics to the absolute extreme.
Unable to maintain the plane’s approach speed of 60 mph, Heathcoat slowed to just 35.
And that’s when the biplane hit the power lines.
“That brought the nose down, and we hit the ground,” he said. “The (landing) gear dug in, and it skipped along on its nose. Then it (rose) up on its nose and flipped onto its back.”
Heathcoat and his co-pilot — the only people aboard — scrambled out of the overturned plane.