A San Diego Sheriff Fire Rescue Helicopter was in the right spot at the right time last Saturday to assist a plane crash victim on the Guejito Ranch located east of Valley Center and north of Ramona Airport.
Guejito Ranch is a well known area by most pilots in San Diego County due to it's dirt airstrip situated on several thousand acres of grazing land, dotted by oak trees and plenty of wide open semi-flat areas perfectly suitable for emergency landings. Many pilots may not know that it is the largest of the original Spanish Land Grants still in existence today in Southern California. The ranch is privately owned.
The uncontrolled airspace above the ranch is for obvious reasons popular among CFI's and students of both fixed wing and rotor wing aircraft.
At the same time however the manager of the working cattle ranch has understandably had his fill of training helicopters buzzing around the ranch at low level, at times a nuisance to his cattle. But he has probably also had his fill of both fixed and rotor wing aircraft coming to rest on the ranch in conditions best described as no longer airworthy.
Let's see there was the Schweitzer 300 N58332 that I did most of my initial flight training in, which ended up in a state of disrepair at the bottom of a simulated auto-rotation "gone bad", on the dirt airstrip.
Then there was the helicopter from the Ramona Helicopter Museum that went down into the trees with 4 people on board after a loss of engine power. All four people walked away but the helicopter was totalled.
Then there was the low wing single engine airplane that apparently suffered engine failure and performed a flawless belly landing literally in the back yard of the ranch managers house.
And Saturday it was the experimental airplane pictured above. Thankfully once again the injuries were non fatal. And that is just in the past 4 years, and I have probably missed one or two.
According to Cal Fire Chief Nick Shuler the plane suffered a loss of engine power and the pilot attempted to make an emergency landing on the ranch. During the landing roll the plane became inverted causing moderate injuries to the pilot, who was up walking around when fire personnel arrived on scene.
Coincidentally a SD Sheriff's Fire helicopter piloted by Deputy G. Palos, and with a Cal Fire Captain occupying the TFO seat, was in the area, heard the call and landed to assist. The call apparently came into the Sheriff's communication center at around 11:10 am.
Due to an extended ETA by Mercy Air, Deputy Palos and his Cal Fire partner flew the victim (along with a ground paramedic) to Scripps Hospital in La Jolla Ca., for treatment. Normally Sheriff's fire rescue helicopters do not perform medivacs, but they can and will when the ETA for other medivac ships are extended.
As far as Guejito Ranch is concerned pilots will continue to use the airspace above the ranch for practice, it would be a little silly to think they wouldn't. But it would be wishful thinking to believe that at some point in time another aircraft will not end up in a non flying state somewhere on the ranch. Hopefully it will be without injuries:)