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A Miracle on a Wing and a Prayer


What district lineman Michael Eagon found when he responded to a report of damaged equipment north of Elk City left him scratching his head. The scene would also amaze agents with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.)


On the morning of February 4, a member called to say there was a bro- ken utility pole on a line north of Elk City. When Eagon arrived at that location, he found two broken poles on a single- phase line, and both were broken about three feet from ground level.


Although broken, the first pole was still in place. The second pole had a


They told Eagon they had been dispatched by the FAA to locate and identify a structure that had reportedly been struck by an airplane during the night.


Surprised, Eagon agreed that would explain why there were no tire tracks near the damaged poles, but it didn’t explain what kind of aircraft would be small enough to fit between the ground and the neutral line – about 25 feet. And where was that aircraft now? After an impact such as that, it would be expect- ed the aircraft, or pieces of it, would be found scattered throughout the nearby field.


As Eagon worked on getting the passengers on-board.


“He said in the poor weather condi- tions that night, and with very low vis- ibility, the pilot managed to be perfectly in line with the Elk City Airport; he was just two miles short. He struck our poles, pulled up, then determined the plane was still able to fly, and headed to Will Rogers World Airport,” says Copeland. The point of impact was about six inches right of the center of the plane’s nose. There was reportedly some dam- age to the underneath side of the plane as well.


“The investigator, who had years of experience, said he was completely amazed he was not investigating the loss of an aircraft and seven lives,” says Copeland.


The next day NFEC linemen pieced the pole back together for FAA inves- tigators. It was determined the point of impact was about nine feet above ground level. It is believed the pilot was almost perfectly centered between the ground and the neutral wire, meaning he had three to four feet clearance between the tail rudder and the neutral, as well as between his landing gear and the ground.


The damaged nose of the Cessna Citation jet that broke two poles after crashing into a single-phase line near Elk City.


three-foot stub sticking out of the ground and the top eight to nine feet of the pole was floating with the phase wire and the neutral still tied in place.


The remaining 18 feet of the pole was in several pieces, scattered about 200 feet into the adjacent field. What made this scene so baffling was that there were no damaged ve- hicles in sight; not even any tire tracks in the three inches of snow that had fallen in the night.


Eagon admits he had no idea what had happened to break these two poles. Beckham County deputies arrived shortly thereafter, but why they were there added to the mystery.


damaged poles removed and replaced, NFEC General Manager Scott Copeland received a call from an investigator with the NTSB.


He said he was investigating an incident involving a plane and possibly one of NFEC’s power lines.


“I told him we were trying to piece together what had happened,” says Copeland. “The investigator was able to shed some light on the mystery.” According to the investigator, a Cessna 525 Citation twin-engine jet was attempting to land at the Elk City airport sometime after midnight. The plane had left Rapid City, S.D. about two hours earlier, and had a single pilot and six


“There are many incredible aspects to this incident, but as the manager of an electric utility, there is one I am especially proud of,” says Copeland. “Given the incredible force from the impact of the plane, the impact pole was naturally broken into several pieces. The next pole to the west was broken by the sling-shot type force when the line was stretched and then snapped back as the plane went through it. 7361-002 But the electric service never went off! There were no reports of an outage or blink after the incident. When Eagon arrived, the phase was still hot. That’s one tough line, don’t you think?” “The FAA investigators were as amazed as the NTSB had been that there was no loss of life,” says Cope- land. “We all agreed that there were seven very blessed people on the plane that night that the good Lord obviously wasn’t finished with yet. A matter of a few inches difference to the left or right, or up and down, and the story is tragi- cally different.”


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