By JENNIFER HUXLEY
BEFORE Saturday morning John Thurtel thought Christmas Eve was something best done on the fly.
At 7am on Saturday the Grafton pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in a Southgate paddock when the engine of his recreational aviation aircraft started misfiring.
The plane descended 2000 feet before being landed safely on farming land near the Ulmarra Ferry turn-off. While no damage was done to the pilot or the aircraft, Mr Thurtel said his successful landing signalled that Christmas had 'come early'.
"It's weird when something happens like that you don't panic. It's just instinct that you control the situation and find a clear landing area. I actually didn't find it at all scary," Mr Thurtel said.
"An emergency landing like the one I made is something that all pilots train for. Needing safe emergency landing conditions is the reason we never fly over built- up areas or heavy bushland."
Mr Thurtel has been flying recreationally for two years and as a mechanic does much of his own maintenance.
He said he did not yet know the cause of engine failure.
"I get the engine checked regularly by a specialist but I do a bit of it, so the whole thing is a little embarrassing for me. "I'll deal with it all later. At the moment I'm happy enjoying Christmas," he said.