80-year-old pilot, Vietnam Vet, survives Palo Alto plane crash

An 80-year-old Vietnam War veteran pilot crash landed his plane in the Palo Alto marsh Monday after severing power lines and he’s remarkably okay. The crash happened around 1:50 p.m. northeast of the Palo Alto airport.

The pilot’s daughter said her dad has 60 years of experience flying planes. The pilot is the only person on board and was able to walk away.

From SkyFox, the twin engine aircraft sits upright in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve. Part of one wing is gone, located elsewhere in the marsh. For the most part, the plane is in one piece.

"I think that’s really impressive and a good testament to that pilot’s skill to keep it upright and make it back safe," said Palo Alto Pilot Cale Skagen.

Flight Aware shows the plane was in the air for three minutes after taking off from the Palo Alto Airport at 1:47 p.m. Monday. Stephanie Powell of East Palo Alto heard the plane go down.

"You could hear the engine like it was dying out," said Powell. "When it came down, wow I didn’t think the plane had crashed. I didn’t know the plane had crashed."

The plane didn’t reach more than 500 feet before circling back to the airport, losing altitude and knocking two transmission lines. Luckily, those lines weren't live.

"I didn't see sparks or arcs on scene," said Dep. Chief Kevin McNally of Palo Alto Fire.

The pilot made an emergency landing in mostly dry vegetation. Hazmat crews were at the site to contain fuel spilling into the marsh and to ensure proper cleanup to protect the Baylands.

"We’re hopeful we are able to contain where it’s at and most of the fuel will evaporate prior to cleanup," said Dep. McNally.

The pilot was taken to the hospital for precaution. Records for the plane’s tail number show the Beech Barron fixed wing plane is registered to Faford Aviation Leasing Company out of Atherton.

The pilot’s daughter said her 80-year-old father flew Navy aircraft for years and likely relied on his muscle memory in making Monday’s difficult landing.

"I’ve heard of incidents around this airport that didn’t turn out okay for everybody involved so I think it is very lucky," said Skagen.

The NTSB and the FAA are investigating the cause of the crash. Those at the crash site, who heard the radio traffic between the plane and the tower said the plane had engine trouble.

A helicopter is expected to lift the plane from the Baylands and back to the airport.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at azenith.smith@fox.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.