On May 22, 2021, North Carolina-based student pilot Brian Parsley was on the final stretch of his long cross-country flight. However, at around 12 miles from the airport, he started experiencing engine trouble. Within minutes, he suddenly lost complete power on his single-engine Cessna 150 while still in the sky, with residential areas and power lines below. The terrifying moment would send most of us into a panic, but Parsley managed to remain calm and land the plane safely in a nearby field.
At first, Parsley thought the rough engine was down to “carb ice,” which is when ice begins to form because of a pressure drop in the venturi carburetor (a device that mixes air and fuel for internal combustion engines). He took the appropriate measures to fix the issue, and started recording the moment on his camera so he could show his instructor later. However, Parsley quickly realized that the aircraft ran out of fuel, and he only had a few minutes to find somewhere safe to land.
Parsley contacted air traffic control on his radio, who told him that he was cleared for the nearest runway. However, he was too far from the location to make it in time, and explained he was going to try and land in a field nearby. “The first 10 seconds was panic mode. It's almost like this disbelief, ‘is this really happening?’” Parsley recalls. “I could hear my confident calm tone begin to shift and change, but after about 10 seconds I knew I was faced with absolute incredible task saturation.”
Parsley got the go-ahead to land just in time. “I had to make a choice and once I kind of said okay ‘this is where I’m going’ it was almost like an out-of-body experience,” he says. “Although I was consciously there and muscle memory kicked in.” The student pilot carefully maintained speed and altitude as he steered towards the field and finally landed. Phew!
Not having extra fuel on board was a huge lesson for Parsley. “That mistake could've cost a life,” he admits. “This was more than just a ‘near death’ experience. It was an incredible learning opportunity for others as well.”
Watch the incredible emergency landing below.