‘That red oak did not move’
Joe Hunt is no stranger to flying.
The U.S. Navy veteran flew patrol planes and a few single-engine jets and other training aircraft in the military before he logged more than 20,000 hours as a pilot for American Airlines for 30 years.
And in all those years flying all those planes, he was always aware that he needed to be ready for any emergency that might arise.
On April 25, one arose.
“I bought a Super Aerosport One in Saluda, South Carolina,” said the 82-year-old pilot. “I fueled up and took off.”
Flying to a destination where he calls his home airport in Lavonia, Hunt said he had no problems whatsoever.
“I played with it, did some stalls and a few maneuvers,” said Hunt. “But I made a miscalculation.”
When he flew over Lake Russell, Hunt said he realized he had not been keeping track of time, but he did look at his fuel indicator and he said there was a quarter of a tank of gas.
Despite the fuel indicator telling him he had a quarter of a tank of fuel, he ran out of gas.
“The engine quit,” said Hunt.
Hunt said he was about 700 feet in the air when the engine died.
There wasn’t much time to do anything.
“I wasn’t high enough to do anything,” he said. “When you are flying at a greater rate of speed you can climb in that situation, but I wasn’t flying fast enough.”
He realized he was going down and he didn’t have much of a choice but to try to land as softly as possible.
“The first hit was very soft,” Hunt said. “The left wing caught a branch, but the guys that found me said I hit a red oak. That red oak did not move.”
Fortunately, Hunt had his cell phone, and he called 911.
As unlucky as he was to crash his (uninsured) airplane, he was lucky enough to crash his in a place where first responders were smart enough to find him quickly.
“When he called he told us he felt like he was a couple of miles north of Elberton,” said Elbert County Emergency Management Agency’s Chuck Almond.