Pilot Crashes into Deer on Vinton Airport Runway

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

VINTON, Iowa - A Vinton pilot is still reeling after he struck a deer while trying to land his small airplane this weekend.

He had barely touched down when a handful of deer ran across the runway.

"It was quite a collision," said Pilot John Stiegelmeyer.

According the Federal Aviation Administration's website, there hasn't been a report of a plane hitting a deer at an Iowa airport since October 2006.

That accident at the Nash Field Indianola Airport left minor damage to the plane. A plane struck a deer at the Waterloo Regional Airport in 2003 and again at Keokuk Municipal Airport in 2004.There have only been seven reports since the beginning of 2001.

Now there's one more for the list, in Vinton.

"I didn't have much time," said John Stiegelmeyer.

Stiegelmeyer has been a pilot for fifty years. Never once did he think about keeping an eye out for deer.

"That's something you never consider, you never think about hitting. Birds yea, there's a lot of birds around this airport," Stiegelmeyer said.

Chairman of the board at the airport Tom Boeckmann said he doesn't think anyone has ever hit a deer at the airport. Ironically enough, Boeckmann said the board has been discussing more precautions due to a deer population on the rise.

"We have done everything short of having an open season, and that's something we'll certainly explore if it means having a safer place for pilots," Boeckmann said.

John now has his hands full with a mangled airplane. The plane, perhaps, means a bit more than others. Stiegelmeyer built it. As John's pilot friends examine the damage, they know it's tough for him.

"It's more than just money," said Pilot & Airport Board Member Leon Whelchel. "It's blood sweat and tears, as well."

"I'm 72 now, almost 72," said Stiegelmeyer. "It took me six years to build this. Maybe I'll try to buy one or maybe I'll say 'okay maybe this is the way to end my career'."

Everyone at the airport said John was lucky to walk away. He did some quick thinking when the deer ran out, but he also knows he had a little help.

"Every aviator has some close calls, and I think I have an angel on my left should, I think," Stiegelmeyer said.

The airport leaders said the FAA will be out to examine the plane later this week.
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