DeKALB – A 62-year-old Sycamore man was airlifted to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford on Tuesday after crashing a small aircraft into an open field.
James L. Auman was in good condition there at 8:10 p.m. Tuesday, a hospital spokesman said.
At about 3:45 p.m., Auman took off from DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport in a small plane colored red and gray with “Metal Illness” emblazoned on the side. The plane lost power, crashing into the field and flipping over, DeKalb County Sheriff Chief Deputy Gary Dumdie said. Auman, the pilot, was the only person in the plane.
Dumdie said the plane flew over Route 38 east of Peace Road at a low altitude with puffs of smoke coming out of it. Dumdie said Auman was trying to land the plane on its belly, but it flipped over during the crash.
Within an hour, crews had pulled him from the aircraft and were preparing to fly him to the Rockford hospital. Dumdie said Auman’s injuries did not appear to be critical, as he was talking to firefighters and others who responded to the crash.
Route 38 was closed between Webster and Somonauk roads while crews responded to the incident.
Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration were at the scene investigating the crash. An official cause was not available Tuesday afternoon.
Fuel was leaking from the aircraft when passer-by Ron Dukes arrived on the scene. A retired firefighter from Kaneville, Dukes said he saw smoke rising from the field as he drove by the field with his son, Evan.
“I doubled back and the more I got closer, it appeared to be an aircraft upside down,” Dukes said. “And it was smoking.”
Dukes’ son grabbed the fire extinguisher and they made their way to Auman’s plane to check on his condition. Dukes estimated that he was the third person on the scene, with police and firefighters following them. They did not use the fire extinguisher.
Like Dumdie, Dukes also noted that Auman was conscious and alert. He said the pilot was complaining about his neck and he was feeling numb.
Dumdie noted that this situation is “far less tragic” than Monday’s fatal helicopter crash. A medical helicopter flying to the same hospital crashed in nearby Rochelle, killing the pilot and two nurses onboard.
Dumdie said the homemade plane appears to be based on a P-51 Mustang, an American single-seat fighter used by the United States in World War II and the Korean War. The DeKalb airport is home to several vintage airplanes.
The field Auman’s plane crashed into is located south of the airport. Dumdie said that plane was new, having logged few flight hours.