Pilot rescued from woods after crashing plane in Cleveland

An 18-year-old pilot was rescued around midnight Sunday, Jan. 29, after crashing his Cessna C172 single-engine plane nose-down in a wooded area about a half-mile south of the Cleveland Municipal Airport runway. The pilot walked away from the crash with only minor injuries, but was transported to HCA Hospital in Kingwood as a precaution.

The young pilot, Andrew Jett Moya, of Spring, started his flight into Cleveland at around 9 p.m. Sunday from Dan Jones Airport in Cypress, Texas.

According to Clay Dean, the fixed base operator for Cleveland Municipal Airport, Moya apparently had intended to bring his plane to the Cleveland airport for an annual tuneup by Lone Star Aviation Services. At this time, it is unknown if the plane began to have mechanical problems or if the crash was caused by pilot errors.

Texas troopers and game wardens used an airboat to return to the plane crash site once the pilot was rescued.

As Cleveland Municipal Airport is currently closed for nighttime traffic due to problems with runway lighting, the pilot’s decision to fly into Cleveland at night is puzzling. Heavy fog Sunday night only made air travel even more precarious.

With the lighting issues, Dean said it would have been impossible for Moya to see the runway in Cleveland from the air, adding that the appropriate authorities were notified about the closure weeks ago and that Moya should have seen the nighttime closure through a NOTAM (Notice to Air Missions) with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Immediately after the crash, Moya notified authorities by calling 911.

Capt. David Meyers, a spokesperson for Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, said that 911 dispatchers kept Moya on the phone in order to determine his location and to ensure that he had no life-threatening injuries.

A staging area was set up at Cleveland Municipal Airport by Cleveland Fire Department and Tarkington Volunteer Fire Department, and assisted by the sheriff’s office, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

After a couple of hours, and after maneuvering through floodwaters caused by recent rains, emergency personnel reached Moya’s location and rescued him. They reportedly walked through the flood waters in knee-deep to waist-deep water to reach him, and then used side-by-side ATV vehicles to remove him to safety. Afterward, they returned to investigate the crash site by airboat, which was initially not available early on in the rescue.

Sources close to the rescue say Moya was already standing in knee deep water when they arrived.

In a follow-up investigation after the crash, Sgt. Rob Willoughby, who supervises the Liberty County DPS office, said that Moya struck a tree on approach of Cleveland Municipal Airport, about 0.8 miles south of the runway.

The remainder of the investigation will be handled by the Federal Aviation Administration.


  1. Who lets an 18 year take a plane at night , to an airport that has no runway lighting, that is due an annual inspection. ?. more to this story I’m sure.

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