Pilot says training prepared him for Holland crash

Associated Press

Park Township — A Holland man says his flight training and survival instincts enabled him to walk away with only minor injuries after his small plane crash-landed on a Lake Michigan beach.

Steven Stam, a pilot of 22 years, immediately remembered what he should do when the plane’s engine sputtered for about 30 seconds and then lost power in the air Sunday evening.

“You envision that all the time as you’re flying: ‘Do I have to put down here?’ and, ‘What do I do if my engine quits?’ I really was not afraid,” Stam said. “My instructor drilled me on that.”

After scanning the landscape for a safe place to land, he brought the plane down in dune grass in Ottawa County’s Park Township, near Holland State Park. Stam was able to find a spot far enough away from the beach area, which was full of people, and land the plane nose-down in the sand.

“In some sense, it was a perfect landing, considering what I had to land on and the fact that I didn’t get any roll when I touched down,” he said.

Stam, 66, was greeted by beachgoers who offered help and praise.

“When I got out and stood up and walked, they all applauded,” he said. “That was surreal.”

Although this was his second crash, Stam plans on flying again. He was involved in a 2009 crash at Park Township Airport because of his lack of skill with the particular plane.

“That one was my fault,” he said of the earlier crash. “This one was not my fault. The engine stopped.”

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating Sunday’s crash.

Stam said he’s not sure if he’ll be able to salvage his plane, but he’s thankful he sustained only minor injuries.