Lou Riekert switched gears in 1960 and kicked his passion for flying into full throttle.
"It will top out at 170 miles per hour,” explained Riekert of his homemade fixed-wing single engine plane. “It cruises between 130 and 150; when it tops out at 170 it starts to.”
And over the course of 50 years, this pilot from Pasadena has seen it all -- including his fair share -- of close-encounters.
“Oh I've had to land after problems,” he lamented.
But Riekert says the circumstances have never been anything quite like the scare he encountered while flying over Jewett in Leon County Tuesday afternoon.
“I had lunch with a friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in 30 years, and I was heading back home when the engine began to ride rough,” Riekert explained. “I tried to land on a field that's located about a mile west of here, but I couldn't make it because the engine seized and quit turning. And I didn’t want to go near the school, so I picked the next best alternative.”
After descending an estimated 3,500 feet, Lou Riekert landed safely in a pasture at the Busy B Ranch right behind Leon High School; and the veteran pilot managed to walk away unscathed.
“When there's that much adrenaline running through your system, you could be deadly hurt and not know it, so it took me a couple of minutes to figure that out,” Riekert said. “I just drank a bottle of water and then I realized it wasn’t so bad after all; and the next thing I knew a couple people came by and one of the guys was a pilot and he took it very calmly, and the other was a lady, and she was quite concerned because she didn’t know if I was broken.”.
It's unclear what triggered the engine problems inside the fixed wing single-engine plane Riekert built himself, but he says it's something that comes with the territory of what the Federal Aviation Administration classifies as: Experimental and Homemade” aircraft.
“The rules are less restrictive and so an amateur can build an airplane," said Riekert. ”You have to have this placard so that you fool no one, and then there's a placard in front of the passenger’s side and it says, ‘This is amateur built,’ and ‘Does not correspond to standard category aircraft.’ “
While the aircraft might be classified as amateur, the results of Riekert’s emergency landing -- are anything -- but amateur.
"The bible happens to say that fear has torment and on something like that you have enough problems to add to your problems," he added. "So if you can think logically, then you can think and get through to solve the problem."
According to the FAA, there have been 24 accidents reported for Experimental or Home-built aircraft since August 30th of this year.