Installer ‘Rescues’ Plane After Crash Landing

A crane truck does double-duty helping airport keep its runways clear
Installer ‘Rescues’ Plane After Crash Landing
Jace Ensor's crane truck assists the regional airport in removing a plane from the runway. (Photos by Chad Swanner, courtesy of Mountain Top Inc.)

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Jace Ensor is one of those lucky guys who people say “never works a day in his life” because he has genuine love for what he does.

Usually that work is installing and servicing septic systems in Ruidoso, New Mexico, but every once in a while he gets a call from the regional airport requesting a unique service: they need him to move a plane off the runway after a landing that didn’t go as planned.

The first time this happened was five or six years ago. A big twin-engine plane had belly-landed on the runway. Ensor owns a 35-ton crane, which at the time was the biggest within 50 miles, so he was asked to help out. “Since then, there are other trucks around that are capable, but no one’s got the experience or training. I’ve had rigging training several times and I’m pretty sharp on rigging them,” he says.

Now Ensor has a deal with the airport: They call him every time a plane is stranded on the runway, and he promises to drop everything and come running.

While this interrupts his regular business, Ensor enjoys the excitement of getting to do something a little different.

“Two years ago, I picked up two airplanes. The one that landed in the weeds, the wing was broken off, but like a tooth … just barely hanging on,” Ensor says. “I did very creative rigging to make it stay intact. I had to rig it 30 or 40 feet in the air and play with it like a fishhook. So that was fun.”

The most recent flubbed landing, a few weeks ago, was another belly landing on the runway. The pilot realized his landing gear wasn’t working but managed to land safely.

Ensor was in the middle of loading a septic tank when he got the call. “This time, they told me when I got there, that I would lift it and the gear would fall to the ground and lock. And it did exactly as they told me. I didn’t even lift the tail end up and the gear fell right out onto the ground. I unhooked and away we went.”

Scroll down for more photos of Ensor’s plane rescue. 

Jace Ensor and his company Mountain Top Inc. were featured in the cover story of the June issue of Onsite Installer.


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