Ron Carlson has been restoring a World War II vintage Grumman TBM Avenger since he brought it over from Australia.
He was flying it back to the Chicago area, from Phoenix, Arizona over a mountain range on the White River Reservation Saturday when something went wrong.
"At the worst possible moment, we were in cruise, everything looked good," he said. "I was on the instruments and a big bang in front, and everything just started shaking."
Carlson says smoke began to pour from the plane’s engine, while he and his friend Kenny looked for a place to put it down--but they saw only trees.
"The smoke was getting worse," Carlson said. "Kenny was getting a little itchy back there so I made the decision to leave the airplane."
Kenny went first but held on to the plane.
"When I banked the airplane ... that’s when he let go and I sucked my legs out and just went," Simon recalled.
The two made it to the mountainside injured and separated. They had no water.
"I literally said to myself: this is it," he said. "It's like people say, you think of your loved ones, not only how sad they would be but the one thing I thought--the biggest thing I thought--was I am not going to get to see my boys grow up."
"That’s when you kind get mad and say I am getting out of here," he added.
Carlson spent the night on a bed of pine needles.
The pair reunited the next morning, then started to hike down the mountain. Kenny went ahead when they saw a gravel road and he came back with help from the reservation.
"An hour later I was taking a rest and boom, a pickup truck comes by with Kenny in it," Carlson said. "So I know at that point, the adrenaline just went out and the next thing I knew I had a cold Gatorade in my hands--so that was the best thing."