CHATSWORTH — The pilot and passenger of a small plane on its way to Van Nuys Airport walked away unhurt from an emergency landing in a field Monday after the aircraft lost power about six miles from the runway.
Pilot Kenny Eckels guided the single-engine Cessna to a dusty, but safe, landing on the plowed field, barely clearing a row of trees that border the Los Angeles Times' San Fernando Valley plant on Prairie Street.
Eckels, a Sylmar pilot with more than 30 years experience, said he was flying his friend Bob Atkinson of Northridge back from a birthday trip to Santa Ynez when the plane's engine died at an altitude of about 2,500 feet.
When he realized the plane would not reach Van Nuys, Eckels said he told Atkinson to find an open space where the plane could land. The empty lot on the corner of Winnetka Avenue and Prairie Street where they touched down is the proposed site of a municipal courthouse.
Although the plane's gauges showed enough fuel to reach Van Nuys, Eckels said he believes the plane he rented in Van Nuys ran out of fuel. "The gauge showed a quarter tank when it began to sputter so we were pretty surprised," he said.