A Central Oregon man is alive and safe after being rescued by helicopter after crashing a Wittman Tailwind in the rugged wilderness outside of Grants Pass, Oregon. The man, Steven Paul Dawson, 34, said that he’d purchased the Experimental airplane the week before and had just finished readying it for flight. Such things happen all the time. Well, kind of.
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See, it turns out that Dawson isn’t a pilot, well, at least not a registered pilot, and this isn’t his first run-in with regulators. Last September he was apparently teaching himself to fly a different homebuilt and attracted the attention of the entire airport community, including the fire department. The first responders were standing by, preparing for a crash after onlookers were alarmed by Dawson’s attempts to get the taildragger somewhat safely back on the ground. Eventually, he walked away from the hard landing, but only after running the plane out of gas and taking out a number of runway lights, which the airport management says will cost around $2,000 to replace. The office subsequently padlocked the plane, reportedly until Dawson reimbursed the county for the cost of the lights.
The FAA doesn’t have much jurisdiction in the case, as they can’t suspend Dawson’s license because he doesn’t have one. The would-be pilot is currently facing other charges in Jackson County that are unrelated to the aviation hijinks, though charges could be leveled by local law enforcement, and he could wind up getting charged for the helicopter rescue, as well.