IT was on a wing and a prayer that a pilot escaped unhurt after being forced to make an emergency landing in a remote part of the New Forest when the engine of his plane cut out.
The single-seater Team Minimax light aircraft had been going from Farley to Poole when it lost power between Hale Purlieu and Godshill, near Fordingbridge, on Sunday morning.
The pilot, a Mr Shepherd from Romsey, managed to make what he later described as “a textbook landing” on heathland at Turf Hill, just off the B3078 Roger Penny Way, without injuring himself or anyone else.
Firefighters responded to a call-out just after 10am, but Mr Shepherd had managed to free himself from the plane by the time they arrived at the scene.
The crews from Fordingbridge, Ringwood and Redbridge detached the craft’s wings from the fuselage before helping to carry the three sections to nearby Deadman’s Corner.
They also used specialist Environment Agency equipment to clear up a spillage of aviation fuel.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Shepherd said: “This could not be described as a ‘lucky escape’ but a safe and controlled touchdown.”
Tim Eyre, landlord of the nearby Fighting Cocks pub, told the A&T he went to the scene after being alerted to the incident by a passing cyclist.
“I was a bit surprised as you don’t expect things like that to happen around here,” he said.
“My main thought was whether anyone was injured or if the roads were blocked, but it was all okay. It caused a bit of excitement with our regulars, but it soon died down.”
A tweet by the Fordingbridge fire station, with a picture of the incident, praised a successful operation.
“The landing position of the plane in the middle of the #NewForest was very difficult for crews to access easily,” it said.
“Great help from @hfrs_control as always & fab teamwork with all responding crews!”
An Air Accidents Investigation Branch spokesperson said: “An accident involving a light aircraft in the New Forest was reported to us yesterday and we have started an investigation.”