Pilot survives 8 hours under aircraft after crash in Gila River Reservation

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

GILA RIVER RESERVATION - A plane went down Wednesday morning on the Gila River Reservation near 51st Avenue and Pecos.

The pilot spent more than eight hours in the desert, his body stuck underneath the aircraft. Now that man is recovering in the hospital.

Dave Martin, with the Gila River Fire Department, says, “The aircraft was on its top, the pilot was face down.”

The aircraft is registered to 63-year-old Charles Blanchette of Phoenix, whom 3TV has learned was the pilot involved in the crash.

From the air, the wreckage looked impossible to survive but the pilot in this single-engine experimental plane miraculously was still conscious.

Martin explains, “He was alert. He was talking He was able to communicate with paramedics on the scene.”

Officials say the pilot had been there for eight hours. Martin says, “The aircraft went down around 9 o’clock this morning and on his way down he communicated with one of the area airports.”

Before the crash, the pilot contacted the control tower in Glendale to report he had lost power and was 25 miles southwest of the airport. Crews searched for hours until a member of the Civil Air Patrol spotted him before it was too late.

Martin says, “Being down in the desert like that, for that length of time, he's very fortunate, there's no doubt about that.”

3TV obtained a photograph of the plane taken last year at the airport in Glendale. It as an experimental plane built in 1978, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Officials have not confirmed whether Blanchette was the pilot. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will begin their investigation Thursday.

Blanchette is listed in critical condition.