Distressed Pilot Says Military Turned Him Away
Regulations aside, a California pilot claims the military put him in harm's way when it refused to let him land his powerless Cessna 140 at Travis Air Force Base Jan. 11. But an Air Force spokesman said he was welcome to set down on that big, wide runway. "We were more than ready to accept that aircraft," Capt. Michele Tasista, public affairs chief at Travis, told the Vallejo, Calif., Times-Herald. "As I understand it, we were willing to let him land here." But 68-year-old pilot Ted Weddell said that Travis controllers first peppered him with questions and finally sent him to nearby Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville. He never made it. The fuel-less 140 hit a tree on a vacant lot, sending Weddell and his passenger, 34-year-old Scott Terra, to the hospital. The NTSB preliminary report may support Weddell's version of the events. The report says Weddell made a call on the emergency frequency when fog blanketed his destination and he ran short of fuel looking for a hole in the undercast. The report says Travis controllers then vectored him to the nearest airport, which was fog-shrouded Nut Tree. Weddell insists it would have been safer for him to land at the base. Another Air Force spokesman, Capt. Angela Smith, stressed that Travis is open to any aircraft in an emergency and controllers must have had a good reason if they sent him somewhere else. She did not tell the Times-Herald, however, specifically what that reason might have been in this case. Weddell suffered a broken arm, a dislocated shoulder and facial injuries. Terra broke an ankle and all the bones in his face and was in hospital almost three weeks. There were only three quarts of fuel left in the airplane.