The Harrowing Full Story Behind Friday’s Emergency Landing Near The Wye
The newly released Clint Eastwood movie 'Sully' may be making hay at the box office, but Missoula has its very own 'Sully' in Skip Owings.
Skip and his wife Judy were on their way from the Missoula airport to Kalispell when he noticed some problems with the engine on his Cessna aircraft.
"We took off from the Missoula airport and got a few miles north of Evaro and I noticed the carburetor heat control kept coming out on the panel, and it did that about three times and then I felt a slight vibration in the engine and I looked over and discovered that there was no oil pressure, "
At 6,500 feet, Owings knew he had a serious problem.
"At that point, I decided to head back to Missoula," he said. "It was still running reasonably well, although it was vibrating. So, I turned and headed back towards Missoula and switched to the emergency frequency 121.5 and declared an emergency. At that point it started running quite a bit rougher and knocking, so I backed the engine off as much as I could and went into as slow a descent as I could.
Owings then said a word that his wife, Judy, had never heard before, 'Mayday'.
"At that point, she knew something was amiss," Owings continued. "I kept pointing out fields to her that we could land in if necessary. I thought maybe we could make it back to Missoula, but just as we were coming out of Evaro Canyon, the engine seized up and quit. I discussed with the tower the possibility of landing on the highway north of the Wye but it was pretty congested with traffic. So, I looked things over and opted for the field right to the west of Jellystone RV Park."
Owings and his whole family are devout Christians, and since Skip was busy flying the plane, Judy was in charge of praying.
"I settled into a good healthy glide with plenty of airspeed in case I encountered a fence or a ditch, but it all looked pretty good," he said. "It was a pretty rough landing, but we made it in a cloud of dust and quite a bit of weeds flying around, but we made a good landing."
Several agencies responded to the scene, including the Missoula Airport emergency response team, Missoula Rural Fire, Frenchtown Fire and the Missoula County Sheriff's Office.
Owings said the plane is in perfect shape, aside from the engine seizing up, and no one was injured.
Owings agreed that, in this case, God really was his copilot. You can call him 'Sully', but he still prefers 'Skip'.