FULLERTON — A single-engine plane lost power shortly after taking off from Fullerton Municipal Airport on Tuesday and crash-landed in an adjacent strawberry field. The uninjured pilot walked away from the overturned aircraft.
Clarence Mixon, 65, of Anaheim said he was en route to Corona to get his 1956 Tri Pacer plane painted when he felt it lose power. As the plane sputtered, he tried to circle back to the airport and land.
"I didn't mess around," he said. "I knew it had to be set down. When it quits running, it's got to go somewhere."
Where it went was down.
Realizing that he couldn't make it back to the airport, Mixon started looking for a place to set down. He spotted a strawberry patch near the intersection of Moore Avenue and Gilbert Street and headed for it.
"I figured this field was a possibility, so I put it down in the field. But the damn dirt is soft," he said. "My front wheel caught in a hole and I turned over in a flip."
About 10 people rushed to help Mixon after he crashed about 4:15 p.m.
"I was hanging upside down," Mixon said. "I opened the door . . . got out of the airplane and turned the key off."
By the time the first of his would-be rescuers arrived, Mixon was out of the plane and assessing the damage.
"I was going to get a paint job on it, which I don't need any more," he said inspecting the upside down plane with its front end crumpled.
Mixon, who has been flying since 1943, said he thinks that the plane's carburetor wasn't getting fuel.
Representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration were called to the scene to investigate the cause of the accident.
Several planes have crashed near the Fullerton airport over the years.
"We tend to have them about once a month," Fullerton Police Sgt. Joe Klein said. "Most of the time they are not that serious."
The last serious crash occurred in March, 1990, when the pilot of a small plane was killed after his aircraft struck power lines and slammed into an empty parking lot at the Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park. The pilot had been cleared to land in Fullerton after he was diverted from John Wayne Airport.
Times staff writer Kevin Johnson contributed to this report.