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Pilot emergency lands plane on driving range, just short of runway; no one hurt

By Chris De Benedetti and Matthias Gafni, Contra Costa Times –

CONCORD, Calif. — It likely wasn’t the only errant shot at the Buchanan Fields Golf Course in California on Saturday, but it certainly got the most attention.

The pilot of a small plane lost engine power shortly after taking off from Buchanan Field Airport at 9:25 a.m., but managed to glide back to the Concord airport and land on the golf course’s driving range along Concord Avenue near Interstate 680, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman and golfers said.

No injuries were reported.

The pilot, who was the plane’s only occupant, landed the aircraft and kept rolling at a speed of 10 to 15 miles per hour until it ran into a fence that separates the course from Buchanan Field, said Bob Barro, the course’s golf pro. The plane caused minor damage to the cyclone fence, bending a couple of its poles, Barro said.

“But it’s nothing we can’t fix easily,” he said.

Barro said he was giving a golf lesson when he saw the plane flying just 40 or 50 feet above the golfers, with its propeller not spinning.

“I saw that the plane was awfully low, then I saw it got even lower,” he said. “He actually did a great job to make sure he didn’t hit anything. I’m just glad nobody got hurt.”

The Cessna 172R landed about 700 feet short of the runway, said Allen Kenitzer, FAA spokesman, sustaining “substantial damage.” The 1997 fixed-wing single engine aircraft is registered to Mamdouh Awwad of Walnut Creek, Calif.

The incident is being investigated by the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board.

The plane crashed into the fence a few feet from Dennis Foster and his foursome as they prepared to tee off at the 2nd hole during the weekly, relaxed best-ball tournament.

“Someone yelled, ‘Look!’ ” Foster, 68, of Danville, Calif., said, “and we saw a plane fish-tailing across the grass.”

“It was a miracle that it didn’t hit anyone,” he said, referring to the 1985 crash of a twin-engine plane into a Sun Valley Mall crowded with Christmas shoppers. The pilot and two passengers died, along with four on the ground, and dozens of mall patrons were seriously injured.

Saturday’s pilot eventually popped out of the cockpit and asked if Foster’s foursome were OK, and they checked on the pilot’s health too, Foster said.

“He seemed a little embarrassed. I told him, ‘You ruined my game!’ ” he laughed.

The running joke on the course was the plane wanted to “play through.”

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