Sue Dremann and Bay City News Service
A small airplane made an emergency landing in the Ravenswood Open Space Preserve near East Palo Alto this morning.
The 30-year-old student pilot of a single-engine Beechcraft 2324 Musketeer was practicing takeoff and landing maneuvers in a plane he bought just last week when the engine stalled, said Menlo Park Fire Protection District Division Chief Frank Fraone.
The Redwood City man was practicing with an instructor when the incident occurred and he immediately looked to avoid the high-voltage power lines and East Palo Alto neighborhood that were struck by another small aircraft in February 2010, Fraone said. Three people were killed in that crash and several homes and vehicles were damaged or destroyed.
Tuesday's accident occurred about 2 miles northwest of Palo Alto Airport at 9:47 a.m. and the plane was at an elevation of about 300 feet -- too low to turn back, Fraone said.
Flying is a new hobby for the pilot, his instructor, Jassen Todorov, said.
The pilot aimed the aircraft for a gravel trail after the engine would not restart but the aircraft's left wing struck a small tree on the edge of the trail and was partially sheared off, according to Fraone. The plane then spun into the drained marshland and rested beside and nearly perpendicular to the trail.
If it hadn't been for the tree, they would have made the landing, Fraone said. "They couldn't have selected a better location. They did an outstanding job."
The pilot, who declined to give his name, and the instructor, Todorov, 36, from San Francisco, were not injured.
"I'm happy -- lucky -- alive," Todorov said.
The FAA is investigating the incident.