Plane gets a lift

<p>Elane Dickenson/Chieftain</p><p></p> <p>The airplane that flipped upside down on the Joseph airport runway Aug. 1 is being turned right side up with the aid of a self-loading logging truck and local residents on the scene.</p>

JOSEPH – A self-loading logging truck dangled a Cessna-182 in the air to help put it back on its wheels after a gust of wind caused the aircraft to flip upside down while landing at the Joseph State Airport about 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1.

The pilot, Dave Prather, 60, of Gig Harbor, Wash., alone in the aircraft, was uninjured.

The pilot said he’d flown into Joseph many times, and was looking forward to a camping trip. “Not any more,” said Prather, who’d called someone from the Seattle area to drive to Joseph to pick him up.

He estimated the worth of the plane at about $75,000. “Not any more,” he added.

According to knowledgeable pilots at the scene, the four-seat Cessna 182 had been converted to a tail-dragger.

Responding to the mishap were the Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office and the Joseph Fire Department, plus many private citizens including Wup Winn of Alaskan Bushwheel, Quinton Bronson of Gibson Excavating and Donnie Stone of Frolander Logging.

Winn, whose residence and Alaskan Bushwheel business is near the north end of the runway, said that that erratic gusty winds often arise about the same time of day. He said most likely a gust caught the plane, the pilot applied brakes to try to gain control and the plane turned over, propeller first.

About an hour and a half after the accident, the damaged aircraft was flipped back onto its wheels, thanks to the arm of the log truck, operated by Stone, and the help of many others. For awhile several helpers played tug-of-war with the front of the plane while trying to bring its front forward while it was held upright by the log truck. In the end, Alaskan Bushwheel’s jeep pulled the front forward so it could settle back on its wheels.

As of Tuesday morning, the Cessna was still parked in the Alaskan Bushwheel hangar, waiting for the insurance people, according to Winn.

Pilot Prather was very complementary about the 15 or so local people who gathered at the airport in the wake of the mishap to help him. “They’re treating me very professionally. I couldn’t get any more help and cooperation than I’m getting here from the local folks of Joseph,” he said, adding that is how he’s always been treated on his trips here.

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