MERCER — Veteran small-engine pilot Alton Carter said knew he was in trouble when his aircraft’s engine quit in the sky over Mercer Tuesday morning.

Carter, 75, of Industry, said he quickly radioed his friend Donald Carr of Skowhegan, who also was flying Tuesday morning, telling him he was looking for an open field in which to land.

“I called him on the radio when I was going down — he was in the air,” Carter said. “So he just flew over and found out where I was at; he went back to Norridgewock and drove out to pick me up.”

Carter said he had taken off in his homemade “experimental” aircraft from the Central Maine Regional Airport in Norridgewock earlier Tuesday, at one point reaching an altitude of 2,000 feet. The Norridgewock airfield is about four miles north of the accident scene, police said.

“I just lost the engine,” Carter said as he and Carr were leaving the scene. “She just died down and wouldn’t restart.”

He brought the plane down in a soggy hay field off Elm Street, two miles from U.S. Route 2.

Carter walked away from the crash with only “a rash” from the seat belt, he said. The crash happened around 10 a.m. near the True farm in rural Mercer.

An investigator from Federal Aviation Administration in Portland was sent to Mercer Tuesday following the crash, police said. The investigator’s report was not yet available late Tuesday afternoon.

“I was sitting on the porch and he was circling to come around, so he could land,” said Vivian Doyle of Elm Street in Mercer, who saw the incident. “He hit that hill and the tail came up — my husband said that his engine quit.”

Deputy Ritchie Putnam of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department was the local investigator at the scene. Putnam said the plane’s engine apparently failed, leaving Carter looking for a safe place to touch down.

He said the wheels of the plane became mired in the wet ground when it landed, tipping the nose forward and rolling it over.

He said local authorities are required to notify the FAA in all plane crashes.

“It’s a single-engine, homemade, experimental aircraft,” Putnam said at the scene.

Putnam said fire and emergency personnel from Norridgewock responded to the scene and maneuvered the small yellow plane upright. He said such planes are licensed to fly and Carter is a licensed pilot.

Putnam said Carter was lucky he didn’t hit any of the trees that make a wide ring around the hayfield.

Carter, who appeared unmoved by the potentially deadly ordeal, said he has been flying homemade experimental aircraft since 1970, but never went down in one before.

“I was up fairly high so I could see — there are a lot of fields around,” he said.

Carter said an aircraft such as his can be purchased as a kit for home assembly for about $10,000. They are called “experimental” because you build it yourself, he said. Carter said he has had three such homemade planes in the past; this one, he said, was built in 2001.

A pilot from Farmingdale was killed in Mercer in 2002 when his experimental plane crashed into cables over the Sandy River about four miles west of the Norridgewock airport.

Daniel Blake, 47, probably never saw the cables, police said at the time. Blake had touched down briefly in Norridgewock before taking off for a return trip home.

Doug Harlow — 474-9534

[email protected]

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