Loveland Beacon student reporter Anna Colletto was the only member of the media to speak directly with

Pilot Phillip Sullivan

By Anna Colletto 

MIAMI TOWNSHIP, CLERMONT COUNTY, OH (July 24, 2020) – On Saturday July 18th, pilot Phillip Sullivan made an emergency landing onto Deerview Drive in Miami Trails when his single-engine Cessna plane experienced engine failure.

Pilot Phillip Sullivan (Lower right arms folded) made a safe emergency landing on Deerview Drive (Photo Kim Colletto) 

Sullivan was in the final portion of his flight for Pilots-N-Paws, having just dropped off 4 rescued puppies in Wadsworth, OH, the last pilot tasked with the delivery. As he was flying over Loveland, he began to experience engine difficulties, his engine failing a minute later.

“Had I even hesitated for a second,” said Sullivan. “I wouldn’t have made it.”

Sullivan, from Louisville, Kentucky, is just 21 years old and is in the Air Force ROTC.  In an interview with him this week, I asked him to recount his experience. His story is as harrowing as it is impressive. 

The single engine Cessna piloted by Phillip Sullivan came to rest on the front lawn of the Early home – Alison & Nick Early seen here with the father of the pilot who drove to the scene – amid debris on Deerview Drive in Miami Trails (Photo Kim Colletto)

Upon making an emergency call to the Lunken Airport in Cincinnati, Sullivan began to look for a place to land the plane.

“I saw a golf course,” Sullivan recalled. “It looked pretty good to land, but there were lots of hills . . .  I was worried about hitting any bystanders”.

In an effort to avoid injuring any others but himself, Sullivan considered forcing a landing – putting his plane down in the trees to avoid any bystanders or buildings in the area. That is when he saw a narrow strip of road in Miami Trails.

Miami Township Police and Fire responded along with neighbors to the plane crash site (Photo Kim Colletto) 

“To give some context,” Phillip explained, “I only cleared the trees by 3 or 4 feet. The descent rate of the plane was about 300-400 feet per minute, about 3-4 feet per second.”

Phillip took a moment to credit his Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) training for his ability to navigate what he called, “the Olympics of flying.” Sullivan was able to make it down the narrow and short strip of street to land in the yard of the Early family, clipping a tree, hitting three mailboxes and a light pole, but not any bystanders or homes. Miraculously, he was left without a scratch.

Upon landing, Sullivan was immediately greeted by neighbors, first by Alex Salatin, a high school student who had been mowing the lawn just across the street. Nick Early was next, running into his yard to help in any way he could. This only continued as more and more people ran to help this man they did not know. In an outpouring of support and care, Phillip was prayed over, attended to, and even cooked a steak dinner by the Chevalier family.

“People were super nice, they all brought me water,” Sullivan said. “I must have had 10 water bottles that people had brought me.”

Pilot Phillip Sullivan helps guide his damaged Cessna up onto the bed of the Milford Towing vehicle which hauled the plane safely away (Photo Kim Colletto) 

I live on Deerview Drive, next door to where Phillip’s plane crashed. My bedroom window looks out onto a very busy street. On any given day there are cars, people, dogs, kids moving up and down our cul-de-sac, but not last Saturday. Incredibly, the street was clear.  It may seem that a plane falling out of the sky and crashing on the street is just another horrible, freakish incident in a year full of unbelievable events.

I see it differently- I see it as a miracle. Not only was Phillip able to make an incredibly difficult landing, but he did so without hurting himself or anyone else. Neighbors ran out of their houses with compassion and without annoyance, not caring about any street damage or closure.  People from down the block came to help. In a time of anger and fear, neighbors in Miami Trails rallied in kindness and assistance.

I asked Phillip if he’s been able to reflect on the traumatic experience.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” he said. It’s an incredible thing to think about – that by a few feet I wouldn’t have walked away.”

A plane crash in Miami Township may just seem like another catastrophe of 2020, but Phillip Sullivan’s bravery and the actions of the community are truly a miracle.

What might happen if in the midst of catastrophe we reacted with bravery and selflessness?

Anna Colletto will be a Loveland High School Senior during the 2020-2021 school year.