Cotton softens ‘landing’

Published 11:43 pm Thursday, October 4, 2012

One of the props of a Cessna that came to a stop in a cotton field Saturday shows the remnants of some of the cotton plants that helps slow the plane. Officials moved the plane to Craig Field Airport Monday.

Early in the week, reports started developing about a group of die-hard football fans who were flying to the Alabama game in Tuscaloosa from Mobile last Saturday and on their way crash landed outside of Selma.

Almost all of the reports mention the group was planning to stop in Selma for some barbecue; a fact neither Hancock’s Country Bar-B-Que nor Lannie’s Bar-B-Q Spot had heard anything about.

That’s because a passenger who was on board the plane, John White-Spunner said they were never planning to stop in Selma for barbecue.

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“We were actually supposed to eat barbecue in Tuscaloosa,” he said. “The [pilot] had to stop and pick up some clothes and some other stuff in Selma. He had an extended trip that had come up after he came to pick us up (in Mobile). He was just picking up clothes and some stuff (out of another plane that was parked in Craig Field Airport) for another trip,” White-Spunner said.

White-Spunner noted, that like the previous reports mentioning their plan was to stop in Selma for barbecue, several facts of their story have been misinterpreted.

“We’ve heard a couple things like that,” he said. “Somebody also said we hitchhiked (to Craig Field after the emergency landing) and we didn’t.”

White-Spunner then proceeded to explain the events as they happened. He said they were flying in the direction of Craig Field when they lost both motors.

“We landed on a dirt road. The plane landed and we had to go through some trees and then we came back out on the cotton field near the other side of the road,” he explained. “After we got on the ground, I guess the airport called and touched base. When we landed, we got out, and everyone was OK. We actually all four dropped on our knees and started praying together, and thanked the Lord Jesus for keeping us alive.

“Then we stoop up,” he said. “We were standing in the road and the family drove up. We were all hugging out in the middle of a cotton field in Selma — I thought that was pretty cool.”

A family who lived near the cotton field  heard the plane fly over their house.

“They started praying for us when the plane went over,” White-Spunner said. “The family gave us a ride to the airport, then we got a guy to give us a ride from the airport to Montgomery.”

The Alabama fans then rented a car in Montgomery and made it to Tuscaloosa in time for the game. White-Spunner said he was even able to get his game day barbecue.

“I wound up getting it, but it was in the stadium because we were late,” he said. “It was a pretty full day.”

Nearly a week after the plane made an emergency landing and ended up in a field of cotton, White-Spunner said he is just so thankful to be alive.

“It gives you a different perspective on life, I tell you, just appreciating being alive and seeing your family,” he said. “It was nothing short of a miracle having that place to land on that road.”

The aircraft was removed from it’s landing spot and brought back to Craig Field Monday, Stewart Corley, chief of Craig Field Volunteer Fire Department said Thursday.

“It’s back on Craig and I’m sure they’re waiting to get the OK to get the repair and recertification on the plane,” Corley said.

Corley noted the aircraft doesn’t appear to have any real physical damage, “but I understand it has a lot of cotton that needs to be cleaned out.”

Kathleen Bergen, communications representative for the Federal Aviation Administration, said a mechanical problem was reported at approximately 2 p.m. on Saturday for the Cessna 421 aircraft and the FAA is still investigating.

White-Spunner said he’d be interested to hear what caused the motor failure.

“They’ll determine all that stuff. I don’t know how long it takes, but I’d be interested to hear though,” he said.