Dick Rutan Safe After Emergency Landing

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Dick Rutan has piloted many challenging flights, including going around the world nonstop in his brother's Voyager aircraft, but this Tuesday he had a close call while flying one of the simplest airplanes around -- a Cessna 150. "It was sudden, catastrophic and inexplicable," Rutan told The Associated Press. A cylinder blew, and "the engine was totally destroyed." Rutan, who was flying by himself from Mojave to Palm Springs to attend a memorial service for a friend, landed safely on a small road near Victorville about 9:30 a.m. Rutan said he was flying at about 1,000 feet when the engine died -- the AP said it was "fortunate" that he was so close to the ground, but pilots reading the story would likely wish for more altitude when the engine fails.

Rutan has faced plenty of dangerous flights in the past. He ejected from a burning F-100 in Vietnam, parachuted from a disabled balloon, and abandoned an airplane that broke through thin ice and sank at the North Pole. He told the AP he was lucky that he had clear skies and a good landing spot available when the 150's engine blew. "If I had been over the clouds and had to land on a mountain, my chance of surviving would probably be zero," Rutan said.