With his son and two young granddaughters in the plane, the Glendale pilot decided to abort the landing and come around for a second try, but something went wrong that would set the stage for two aircraft emergencies.
The Cessna 172 began to stall and spin, crashing into the forested area just north of the Payson Airport.
At 11:25 a.m. a voice came over the public address system and said, "Ben, call 9-1-1." Airport volunteer Don Wolfe was on the P.A. system announcing at the aerofair Saturday.
"He was coming in awfully slow," Wolfe said. "Then he started wobbling from side to side. From that point on he was losing air speed. I hollered at Ben (Hitzhusen) with Payson Aviation, to call 9-1-1." The runway was closed as emergency crews responded to the scene.
A group of local Civil Air Patrol Cadets was among the first on the scene after scaling the 12-foot barbed wire fence to get to the crash site.
"I immediately went to the gate and opened it for the emergency vehicles," said Airport Manager Ted Anderson. "Because of the rough terrain, they off-loaded their paramedic gear into the police 4x4."
Response teams found the plane on its nose next to a splintered batch of trees.
"I think the one tree slowed him down and that probably saved them," said Payson Police Officer Allen Dyer. "Only the pilot went to the hospital ... You see something like that and it's almost a miracle."
The pilot was treated for minor injuries and released. The passenger and two children declined treatment.
While the crash is still under investigation, Anderson believes it may have been caused by what pilots refer to as a density altitude situation.
"Because of the high temperature, high altitude conditions, it caused the air to be much thinner," Anderson said. "In essence, this means the aircraft has less lift, which may cause some control problems for pilots."
A second emergency overhead
With the runway temporarily closed, the pilot of a YAK military trainer was circling the airport and reported he was running low on fuel. "The runway was then cleared," Anderson said. "For whatever reason -- because it was a low fuel situation, or a mental lapse -- he landed with his landing gear up. When he touched down his propeller struck the runway several times and the tips disintegrated. He slid down the runway to a point almost south from where the previous aircraft had landed in the forest."
"I overheard the pilot make the statement that he simply forgot to put the landing gear down." Wolfe said. "He had his hands full -- I mean here he is coming in for a landing and there in front of him are police cars and fire trucks and lights flashing. It was a wonderful landing considering the conditions."
The elderly pilot and his passenger survived the emergency landing without serious injury and were treated by response teams already on the scene.
Both incidents are under investigation by the FAA.