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Woman Who Piloted Plane To Crash-Landing Meets Reporters

November 23, 1985

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ A woman who crash-landed a plane after her husband collapsed at the controls said from her hospital bed Friday that she never expected to walk away from the aircraft.

″My only thought was, if Joe and I are going to die, we are going to go solo,″ Ella Faye Wilcoxson said at a news conference at Washington Regional Medical Center, where she is recuperating from bruises and a sore back. ″I consider myself very lucky.″

Joe Wilcoxson, 53, died when a blood vessel in his brain burst after he took off from the Bentonville Airport Nov. 13.

Mrs. Wilcoxson, 45, of Anchorage, Alaska, radioed a mayday message that her husband had died and that she was at the controls of the twin-engine Cessna Skymaster.

Lynn Goodrich, a pilot flying with Wayne Fryar of Aero Tech Services Inc. of Fayetteville, talked with Mrs. Wilcoxson for an hour as they tried to get her to turn south toward Fayetteville to avoid bad weather.

Goodrich said she told him just before the crash, ″I’m coming in out of the clouds, guys, and I don’t think I have any power.″

They then lost contact with the craft, which crashed in a pasture about three miles north of Drake Field, the Fayetteville airport.

Mrs. Wilcoxson, still wearing the plane’s radio headset, was hurled from the cockpit into ankle-high grass.

On Friday, Mrs. Wilcoxson thanked well-wishers and ″the general aviation crew for their help in getting me down out of the sky.″

Mrs. Wilcoxson said the ordeal was overwhelming.

″Fortunately, Joe is one of those people that when you ask what time it is, tells you how to build a watch. I knew quite a bit about airplanes - where most of the controls are and what they do,″ she said. ″I didn’t know how to operate the air flaps. And flying a plane without the flaps is sort of like driving a car without any gas pedal or brakes.″

She also had some advice for those who fly with others: ″They should learn at least how to land.″

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