Glider makes a safe landing along Highway 35 between Italy and Milford

Image: At first glance, Milford’s Police Chief Carlos Phoenix appears to be executing an “air” traffic stop along Highway 35 south of Italy. Actually, Chief Phoenix is investigating the plight of glider 430 as it rests safely away from traffic after loosing air during a race.

At first glance, Milford’s Police Chief Carlos Phoenix appears to be executing an “air” traffic stop along Highway 35 south of Italy. Actually, Chief Phoenix is investigating the plight of glider 430 as it rests safely away from traffic after loosing air during a race. (Barry Byers)

Milford — Milford’s Police Chief Carlos Phoenix spotted an aircraft circling and then tilt sideways before disappearing below the horizon around 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday. “Well that’s not right,” Chief Phoenix thought to himself as he watched the craft tilt and then descend out of view. After racing the to the scene, Chief Phoenix encountered 17-year old pilot Jacob Fairbairn still in his parachute but unharmed along with his 1-26 Glider that he managed to safely land atop a hill adjacent to the highway.

Once on scene, Chief Phoenix was joined by Italy Police Chief Diron Hill. Chief Phoenix and Chief Hill determined the pilot was uninjured and that the grounded glider posed no danger and, therefore, opted not to request any other emergency vehicles to the landing sight.

Fairbairn, a member of the Texas Soaring Club of Midlothian, founded in 1947, and in association with the Soaring Society of America, Inc., is competing in an 2012 1-26 Championships / 13.5M Super Regional Contest glider race that spans 2 practice days and 8 competition days which originated from a TSA airport in Mansfield. The pilots follow a mapped course and are assigned tasks to fly and accumulate points in order to win. 

“Actually, this was not an emergency situation,” explained the young but talented pilot after remaining in the air 2.5 hours before landing safely. “Unplanned glider landings are common within the soaring community. In fact, this is the fourth time I’ve lost air and had to land short of my destination.” Before this competition, Fairbairn had previously landed in a hayfield, a plowed field and at an airport that was not listed as designated turning point within that particular flying challenge.

Simultaneously with Fairbairn, another glider touched down outside Italy along Highway 34 near Chambers Creek with the Italy Police department being dispatched to the second location. The second glider to land in the area was competing in the 13.5 meter class and also managed to land safely. 13.5 meters represents the wing length of the gliders.

Surprisingly, Fairbairn’s call for assistance was not to 911, instead, he contacted his father, Alan Fairbairn, who was also airborne and competing in the glider race. Fairbairn’s father, along with Mike Weatherford of the Tulsa Club, arrived on the scene around 5:00 p.m. with a custom trailer to load the glider.

Disassembly, which included detaching the wings by simply removing a few bolts and a few pins from either side, lasted only 25 minutes and by 5:30 p.m. the flying enthusiasts were taking off once again…in their truck that is.

It’s not everyday Chief Phoenix can be seen making an “air” traffic stop in his police cruiser, but at least Fairbairn was found safe and he was not cited for the impromptu landing. “Pilots are allowed to land in the safest possible area that will cause minimal damage and the least amount of harm, wether on a highway or next to it, as long as it’s determined that the pilot was making an effort to keep everyone and everything safe,” concluded Jacob Fairbairn.

Italy Police Department


Authorized By: Chief Diron HillDate:  July 17, 2012
The Italy Police Department, Milford Police Department and Ellis County responds to 2 downed aircraft in same day.

On 7/17/2012 at around 3:30pm, Chief Phoenix of the Milford Police Department and Chief Hill with the Italy Police Department were in the area of I-35 and Derrs Chapel Road attempting to locate a stranded motorist, but instead, find a glider plane flying very low near the southbound median of I-35 near the 384 mile marker.

Phoenix and Hill responded to the plane and found that the pilot had made an emergency landing on the grass median near the roadway. The 17 yoa pilot was not injured and the plane was not damaged from the landing.

While officers were out with that glider, Ellis County dispatch received another call of another plane down off of HWY 34 just east of Italy near Chambers Creek. Ellis County SO and another Italy officer responded to that plane, which turned out to be another glider having to make an emergency landing in a field. That pilot was not injured either and the plane was not damaged.

The pilots explained that they were in a glider flying competition that originated out of the TSA airport in Mansfield. They said there were at least 20 other gliders in the area.

Both pilots contacted their ground crews who then responded to both locations to pick up the pilots and planes.

Comment by Chuck Coyne

To whom this concerns,

I would like to compliment writer Barry Byers on his article about young glider pilot Jacob Fairbain’s off-field landing July 18. It is sometime difficult for someone not well-versed in the sport of soaring to communicate correctly the routine nature of such an occurrence. Thanks for doing so.

It may be of interest to you that the 2013 World Gliding Championships are about to begin, in Uvalde, Texas. Over 100 of the best soaring pilots in the world will be gathered for this event, which is a very major event in the world of soaring. Here is a link to the event:

Thanks again for the nice story.

Best Regards,
Chuck Coyne
Soaring Magazine
Soaring Society of America