A single seat glider flew into the Owls’ nest this afternoon and almost went unnoticed.
Pilot Tony Smolder of Spring was en route from Waller to Texas Municipal Power Agency at Gibbons Creek when he had to complete an emergency landing in a German Rolladen-Schneider LS 8 glider plane today, at about 3 p.m., and spotted the open field at Anderson-Shiro Junior-Senior High School. After a smooth landing at 50 mph, the pilot said he was soon welcomed by staff and students who took photos with the plane.
“There were a lot of clouds and a lot of shade on the ground, and after I got out here (Anderson), I got low and had to land,” Smolder told The Examiner. “As long as you pick a good field, these (gliders) are all designed for it (emergency landing.) I usually land in fields like this about three times a year.”
Though it wasn’t the 13-year pilot’s first emergency landing, it was his first landing experience that turned into a show-and-tell event.
“Kids got in the plane and they got to try it out. They were all amazed – a lot of questions about how did you get up here?” Smolder said.
Superintendent Brandon Core said he was at the high school when teacher Debbie Lero told him she thought she saw a plane in the field next to the front parking lot of the school.
“She said there’s something out in front of the school, and I think it might be an airplane. I was like, ‘What?’ There’s no engine so he just slid in on the grass (unnoticed),” Core said.
Meanwhile, elementary school cook Cathy Burzynski notified junior-senior high school assistant principal Diana Branch she saw a plane land. Though Grimes County Sheriff’s Office Deputy and School Resource Officer Martha Smith called dispatch to see if anyone reported a plane landing, she was told she was probably misinformed. As she followed the superintendent outside to investigate further, they discovered the glider lying in the field.
“The kids were really excited, and he (pilot) was really nice. He allowed some of our students to sit inside the glider,” Smith said.
Student teacher Sarah Hancock, who was one of the first to discover the glider, said she was working on a photo collage for art students when she noticed the plane. Hancock initially believed the glider was part of a science project since she was unaware that an accident had occurred.
“I thought that would be a good thing to show them, and I thought it was a science project, because it looked really small from far away,” Hancock said.
Once deputies were notified and arrived on scene to investigate, the superintendent immediately notified parents via the district’s automatic callout system to assure them there was nothing to be concerned about, though there were a lot of deputies and a trooper on scene just before the afternoon pickup.
Deputy Michael Bewley, who has been with the Grimes County Sheriff’s Office for 13 years, said it was his first emergency landing incident.
“It was a controlled landing and there weren’t any problems,” the deputy said.
“I want to say thank you for all the hospitality to everyone in Anderson,” the pilot said.
The Soaring Club of Houston member added that the Navasota airport is a popular landing place because of its extended runway.