STARKS — A local pilot was uninjured Saturday night after his small experimental plane crashed into a group of hemlock trees.

The crash, reported at 7:18 p.m. Saturday, drew first responders from three fire departments, Maine State Police and the Maine Warden Service to the scene off Industry Road, which is also Route 43.

Steve Rackliff, who is also the Starks fire chief, said he bought the plane, an ultralight Phantom, at the Auburn-Lewiston Airport. He has owned the plane for about two years but had never flown it before Saturday, he said.

“I was on my way back from going around the neighborhood, and the motor just slowed down mid-air,” Rackliff said. He estimated he was about 50 feet up when the plane crashed into the trees.

“It wasn’t a good feeling,” he said. “The biggest thing I was thinking was ‘my wife is going to kill me.’ She didn’t like the idea of me playing around on the thing.”

After crashing, Rackliff blacked out for a few minutes and was awakened by friends who witnessed the crash and came running over to him.

“Whenever you get into trouble like that, the best thing is to aim for the biggest and greenest trees because they’ll bend and cushion your fall,” he said. “Well, they did until the plane began to fall out of the trees. I don’t remember hitting the ground.”

Rackliff said he was unsure of the cause of the crash, but that it could have been from bad gas or a plugged fuel line. He said the Federal Aviation Administration was contacted, as is standard in most plane accidents, but that it would not be doing any further investigation.

The plane was heavily damaged, but Rackliff said he thought that some of the parts could be salvaged, and he plans to sell them on Craigslist.

“If someone else wants to attempt this, they can have it,” he said. “I would if my wife would let me, but I think that’s out of the question.”

Firefighters from Anson, Madison and Starks responded to the scene.

 


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