FOX 2 News spoke with the pilot of the plane to find out what happened inside the cockpit.
As Hannah Mackenzie reports, the veteran pilot has many years of experience under his belt.
Richard Smith has been flying planes for 70 years… The 98-year-old is no stranger to rough landings, but today was a little different.
“I was in Edinburg, playing around, practicing landings, having fun,” says Richard Smith. “I was headed home and my engine quit on the way home.”
Richard says he tried to restart the engine mid flight, but couldn’t.
“So I went to land in this field right here and i overshot the field and ended up hitting the tree,” says Smith.
Richard was flying an ‘experimental airplane’ which means he built the plane himself.
“This gentleman is over 90-years-old and he still meets requirements of the FAA,” says George Garrett, Coordinator of Emergency Management.
I spoke with FAA officials who tell me Richard was operating under light sport rules, which means he doesn’t have to take a regular medical examination. It does however, place responsibility on the pilot to self-certify they can safely fly the plane.
“If they don’t find him at any type of fault, reckless fault, then there’s no violation,” says George Garrett. “This is just something that happens… Like driving down the street and having a flat tire.”
As for Richard, he only suffered a few scrapes… he tells us his flying days are far from over.
“I’m going to take it home, rebuild it, and put it back together again.”