No injuries after pontoon plane flips on Lake Chesdin

Posted at 9:09 PM, Jun 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-05 06:49:17-04

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WTVR) -- No one was injured after a pontoon plane crashed on Lake Chesdin in Chesterfield County Tuesday evening.

Two fishermen told CBS 6 News' Jon Burkett that it was a frightening few seconds as they watched what happened. The pair said the plane was coming in to land just before 5:30 p.m. when the aircraft started to hit the water the plane flipped.

The fishermen said they wasted no time rushing to help the pilot, later identified by state police as 51-year-old Frank Isbell, and his passenger.

"We are ok," said the pilot as he and his passenger floated in, one sitting on the belly side of the pontoon plane, the other hanging onto the side.

The Smith Cub fixed winged single-engine plane  was towed by good Samaritans to a nearby floating dock with a crane.  There the crane’s owner very carefully helped lift the plane out of the water.  The operation carefully calibrated the weight and size of the craft, as the plane’s wing span was about 36 feet.

The pilot and his passenger had spent most of the day at Lake Chesdin, practicing water landings and take-offs. On the 13th landing try, the plane flipped.

Johnny Mazza is good friends with what he says is an experienced pilot.  The information he gathered suggested the landing gear was down on the plane when it should've been up.

At sunset, police and fire crews got to the scene.  The pilot had already alerted the FAA, and Chesterfield Police alerted state troopers.

State police said the pilot failed to put the wheels of the plane up before landing and that as the plane touched down, the aircraft overturned nose first into the water.

No fuel was spilled when the plane was submerged, but hazmat crews were on standby in case any fuel is spilled when the plane was righted.

The crash remains under investigation by state police and the Federal Aviation Administration.