Despite crash, Albert Lea man still yearns to fly

Published 5:06 pm Saturday, July 27, 2013

A week and a half after walking away uninjured from a plane crash in Blue Earth County, an Albert Lea pilot said he still has a passion for aviation and dreams of a flying career.

Lucas Elliott Schuster, 26, credits his flight training at MN Aviation in Albert Lea for coming out unscathed from the July 16 crash. He said if it weren’t for his training, the crash could have likely been worse.

He said he had gone out for some practice takeoffs and landings by himself in the four-seater Piper Tri-Pacer, which hadn’t been flown for about six months, before taking his father out for 15 or 20 minutes.

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Later, while taking out his brother, Jeremiah, 19, the plane’s engine began to sputter.

The two men had left the Wells Municipal Airport and were headed north toward Mankato.

He said he tried all the troubleshooting he had been trained to do, and after not finding any solutions, he knew he had to pick a place to land. The plane was descending.

“My heart was racing,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Am I really going to have to do this?’ No pilot really wants to do this.”

He at first picked Blue Earth County Road 4 to try to land on, but as he got closer he realized that it wouldn’t be possible for him to land there. The engine kept turning on and off, and the plane could not maintain altitude.

His only other option was to land the plane in a cornfield.

Though he was nervous, Schuster said he tried to keep a calm composure for his brother, who was visiting from Australia.

The plane flipped on its top during the crash landing about 300 feet south of the road, and he and his brother were left dangling by their seat belts about three miles southeast of Beauford.

When they realized they were not injured, they got a ride from some people who had witnessed the crash, who stopped to make sure they were OK.

The Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office found out about the crash the next day from a voicemail from Schuster.

Schuster, who has been flying for about seven years, said Federal Aviation Administration officials told him this week that the plane’s engine had stopped working because of water in the fuel tank and fuel lines.

“They gave me more of a reminder to be more cautious when checking fluids and that type of thing,” he said. “And I’ve learned to be more precautious with aircraft that hasn’t been flown in a while.”

The official FAA report has not yet been released.

Schuster works as the manager of the McDonald’s on north Bridge Avenue.