Savannah Pilot Recalls His Own Ultralight Crash

Posted: Mar 31, 2008 5:12 PM EDT
Updated: Apr 03, 2008 8:20 AM EDT

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - This weekend's plane crash marks the third serious crash involving an ultralight in the past five years (see Former Deputy in Critical Condition after Plane Crash).

It was a sunny day in May 2004 when Howard Spiva's plane went down, crashing into the Forest River. The aircraft was a total loss. Spiva walked away from the crash battered but undaunted. He still flies ultralights today. "The air is like the last frontier," he said.

Spiva doesn't know the pilot who crashed this weekend, but he does know how dangerous these small planes can be. "I've done advanced deep water scuba diving, I've done downhill snow ski racing, jet ski racing, I've raced motor-cross cycles, flown airplanes. I'm not aware of any activity that is more challenging and more dangerous than flying an ultralight," he said.

What makes them so dangerous? Mother nature. "You are subject to gusts of winds, storms coming up," said Spiva. "You are absolutely at the mercy of weather."

The Effingham County pilot crashed Saturday afternoon. Spiva says it was around 3pm that time he remembers the winds really picked up. "Even a small gust of wind can take you out of the air in an ultralight."

It also didn't surprise Spiva that this crash happened shortly after takeoff. That's when his ultralight went down. "If you are up in the air and lose an engine you just glide down," Spiva explained. "There's two times when you are really at great danger in an ultralight, take off and landing."

Spiva said anytime he hears of one of these planes crashing, it effects him. "Number one you don't want anyone to be hurt," he said. "Number two you don't want bad news to be added to a sport. But boxing, football, everything has risk of injuries."

Spiva said the thrill he gets from flying is worth the risk and he said most pilot would likely agree.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter,