GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — A Greensboro businessman is recovering after he escaped the fiery wreckage of an airplane crash more than 500 miles away from home.
Pilot Zack Guthrie, 53, crashed his aircraft in a neighborhood outside the New Jersey Regional Airport in Manville, N.J. on April 4 around 5:15 p.m. It was his first time trying to land at this particular airport.
“It definitely would send fear through any pilot,” said Guthrie, who is president of The Guthrie Group Inc., a management consulting business in Greensboro. “It was a miracle to not hit anybody on the ground, not to kill anybody and to be able to walk away from it.”
A bloody shirt, bent key and two staples in his head are reminders of survival.
Guthrie told FOX8 that parts of his body are still sore, including his right hand and left leg, after escaping this crash.
He has spent more than 500 hours flying, 200 within the past year and has traveled all over the country in his Mooney M20M aircraft.
His flight path was from Piedmont Triad International Airport to New Jersey Regional Airport. He said everything was smooth until he tried to land the plane.
“As I came in, the forecast [was] for headwinds. And when I got to the ground, it was actually a tailwind on the plane,” he said. “That’s when I began to flare over the runway. The wheels touched down once. I went ahead and hit the brakes. The plane jumped, and that’s when I made a decision to go around.”
Guthrie told FOX8 he was alarmed at the mix of tailwinds, the time he had to stop and the short runway distance.
“I began to climb up off the runway,” he said. “I was unable to clear a tree, the tree hit and then for the rest of the crash, it happened really, really fast.”
At that point, it was a matter of survival.
“Whenever I saw the fire, the back of your brain is working so much faster, and it’s just saying get out of the plane,” Guthrie said. “Whatever it takes.”
Guthrie climbed out of the wreckage in seconds.
“I lost my glasses. My phone went into the plane,” he said. “I hit the door the first time, and it didn’t move, and then I hit the door a second time, and then it finally opened.”
There was heavy damage to the nose of the plane, and the tail barely missed homes and a parked vehicle.
Guthrie was checked out at a nearby hospital with a few scrapes and bruises before heading back home.
“God really provided a miracle that no one got hurt,” Guthrie said. “I will never stop learning about things about this accident and ways to prevent it.”
Guthrie told FOX8 airbags in the plane likely saved his life.
He is thankful to the first responders and strangers who helped him in this emergency.
So far, he has not been back in the air yet but plans on it in the future.
Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board are still investigating. A NTSB spokesperson told FOX8 that a preliminary report should be released next week.