‘Lucky’ pilot describes ordeal as plane plunged into Lake Chesdin

Posted at 10:23 PM, Jun 05, 2013

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WTVR) -- Pilot Frank Isbell acknowledges Tuesday mishap was "my bad."

Despite 37 years and thousands of flights Isbell says everyone makes mistakes. He say he's just lucky enough to talk about his.

It was a slow tow in to shore, as a generator cranked up, powering a crane to pull Isbell’s plane’s wreckage from Lake Chesdin.

Those sounds were replaced Wednesday with the shutter of a socket wrench and the disassembling of the pontoon plane. The next destination for the aircraft is a trailer to the Dinwiddie airport for repairs.

"The time we hit the water to the time the plane was upside down it was, oh, about 5 to 10 seconds," said Isbell.

Isbell has had little time to reflect on what the FAA now calls an incident.

"I made my turn,” he said. “I got fixated on a boat below and I stopped flying the airplane. I made a mistake and forgot to pull the wheels up and over we went."

The veteran pilot with 37 years of flying experience says he'd taken off 13 times and was trying to land 13 when his plane took that plunge, with Isbell and a passenger onboard.

"We both went under water-popped our belts and we both came out."

That's when he says strangers sprang into action. Two men fishing raced over to help, with Isbell steering the pontoon boat. They helped drag his plane to a floating dock where R.L. Dunn's crane plucked the plane from Chesdin.

"R.L. Dunn is my hero,” said Isbell Wednesday. “Along with the others whose names we don't even know, that came to help. There are no better people out here."

The removal went into the night and Isbell said the only damage to the plane was cosmetic, minor da mage to a wing. Isbell says he’ll soon fly again, never looking back on an incident that could have grounded the confidence of a rookie pilot.

"Always lucky! Every day I wake up, I'm lucky," he said.

Isbell flies different kinds of planes and believes he was destined to meet the good Samaritans on Lake Chesdin Tuesday. He just wishes he had gotten all of their names.