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Tuesday, November 25, 1997 Published at 13:31 GMT


Plane takes off on its own
image: [ The amazing Ohio bean field adventure comes to a sad end ]
The amazing Ohio bean field adventure comes to a sad end

It could only happen in America. While the pilot watched helplessly from the runway, his vintage plane took off on its own, crash-landing only when it ran out of fuel.

The 50-year-old, single-engine Aeronca Champ had originally landed in an Urbana Grimes Field near Dayton, Ohio, with mechanical problems.

The pilot, Paul Sirks, got out to hand-crank the propeller, and watched the empty plane fly away.

[ image: Plane wrecked, but nobody hurt]
Plane wrecked, but nobody hurt
"The plane took off without him in it, and went across the field, over the runway, up over the hangar, and it just took off," said eyewitness Carol Hall.

Police officers tracked the plane by helicopter as it rose to over 11,000 ft and flew in lazy circles.

They considered having an air force fighter shoot it down, but decided it was probably safer coming down in one piece than in many.

About an hour later, fuel exhausted, the aircraft came to earth in a bean field almost 100 miles (160 km) away.

"I was very surprised that it was able to go that far without a pilot and without controls," said Tom Burkett from the Urbana police.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the case, described it as "a little peculiar."

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