TAMPA At 8 p.m. Friday, John Murray was relaxing at home with a beer. That wasn't a bad place to be considering that four hours earlier, he was piloting a plane with a ruined engine, desperately searching for a place to land.
Murray and his wife, Phyllis, had taken off in his Cessna 182 from Peter O. Knight Airport at about 4 p.m. They were on their way to Miami, where they planned to visit their daughter for the weekend.
Minutes after takeoff, though, the plane's engine started to vibrate vigorously. The Cessna's windshield became covered in oil as the engine shut down, and the plane began losing altitude.
"It was catastrophic engine failure," said Murray, 66, of Tampa.
Murray, who is an aviation attorney, said piloting is his vocation and avocation. He's been flying planes for 50 years.
Just like he had been trained, he remained calm and in control. He looked around for a place to land and spotted a field, he said.
The 1981 single-engine plane made a hard landing in a cow pasture near Dew Bloom and Mount Carmel roads in Valrico. Murray, his wife and their schnauzer Gizmo landed safely, though the plane sustained significant damage to the underbody and nose cone.
Murray said he's never been in a similar situation, but credits his training for helping him and his wife walk away from the ordeal uninjured. He said his wife was calm and supportive during the ordeal.
The incident won't stop him away from flying. This morning, he'll be flying again, he said.
"We're definitely going to keep doing it," he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will conduct the crash investigation as well as assist in the removal of the plane.