Crews raise aircraft from Ohio River

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By Sharon Graves


The News-Democrat

A plane that made an emergency landing on the Ohio River in late June was fished out of the water over the weekend and hauled back to Madison, Ind., on a trailer Monday.

The 1978 Grumman American Cheetah took its return trip to Madison on the back of a trailer pulled by a pickup driven by Mark Wilkerson, son of Fred Wilkerson, manager of Madison Municipal Airport.

The wings of the aircraft had been removed and were strapped to the floor of the trailer, making for a strange sight as it waited to cross the bridge from Milton, Ky., to Indiana.

“I’m glad to have my plane back, but I wish it was in better shape,” said owner Ralph Rogers of Rogers Aviation, in Madison. “The wings, the radio system and the airframe and avionics will need to be replaced, and it will probably cost up to $25,000 to rebuild it.”

Rogers owns eight planes, but this was the only four-seater in his fleet and was the most used.

Rogers rented the plane to Glenn A. Moorman of Union, Ky., formerly of Carrollton, on Wednesday, June 25, for a one-hour trip to fly over Carrollton with his friend, Arthur Bell, and Bell’s daughter Justine, both of Madison. Moorman said the plane ran out of fuel and lost power, forcing him to make an emergency landing. He said he could not find a good place on the ground to land the plane, and opted for a water landing. All aboard escaped with only one minor injury, but the plane sank quickly to the bottom of the river.

Crews had been searching for the plane since it went down; Boone County Fish and Wildlife located it Sunday, July 20, using a new sonar system, Rogers said.

Greg Davis, local fish and wildlife officer, along with Mark Luhn, Greg Crowell, Louis Stangle and Todd Crowell, worked for several hours to get the plane out of the water and up on the bank.

Mark Wilkerson said the plane had come to rest in about 25 feet of water, but came out of the river easily, rolling up a gravel bank on it’s landing gear, which was intact.

Wilkerson said the plane actually had a second tank of gas with several gallons still in it, and it appeared that Moorman, for some reason, failed to switch from one tank to the other before landing the plane.