WATERTOWN, N.Y. — Police searched today for the wreckage of a vintage plane that took off from a rural hayfield without its pilot, who held onto the tail and was dragged 150 feet before letting go and watching helplessly as it climbed 3,000 feet into the night sky in ever widening circles.
The 1946 Hornonica Champ had about five gallons of fuel on board--enough to fly for one hour--when it lifted off from the airstrip 50 miles north of Syracuse about 6:20 p.m. Monday.
The pilot, Douglas Youngs, 58, of Lorraine, N.Y., apparently had flooded the engine and was pulling the propeller through manually when the engine started with the throttle advanced.
State Police Trooper John Pignone said a resident of the town of Adams, about 10 miles from the hayfield in the town of Hounsfield, reported hearing what sounded like a plane crash 15 minutes after the pilotless plane took off.
"We're lucky," Pignone said. "Nobody has called in a disaster, like a plane crashing into a house or anything like that. Lucky that didn't happen."