KISBEY, Sask. - A pilot who survived along with five passengers when his small plane crashed in southeastern Saskatchewan says he knew there were no options when the aircraft lost power.

"When you have a single-engine airplane and you have the engine fail, there's one thing you know for sure - you're going down,'' John Erickson said Monday just before he went into surgery.

Erickson, a flight instructor, said he realized he couldn't make it to a road when the Piper Cherokee 6 developed problems. But he saw a little opening in the trees, so he focused on trying to land the aircraft safely.

The plane left Carlyle, Sask., on Sunday morning and was forced to land about 25 minutes later in a farmer's field near Kisbey, about 150 kilometres southeast of Regina.

Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board were still in the early stages of their review, but regional manager Peter Hildebrand said the pilot had switched fuel tanks just before the crash landing.

Hildebrand said engine problems sometimes occur when drawing fuel from one tank and changing over to a second one. "If there's perhaps a blockage on one side or there's air in the tank or some other situation, then it can happen that there be either a temporary or permanent interruption in the fuel supply,'' he explained.

Erickson recalled the events of Sunday morning. "I have a student who was interested in buying this airplane, so we were going to take it for a flight on Sunday morning,'' he said.

"We took off from Carlyle. It went up over the lakes - Kenosee and White Bear - and then we headed over.''

Accompanying Erickson and the student were the man's wife, his two daughters and his niece.

"For some of them, it was their first plane ride, so what started out to be a very exciting plane ride was a nightmare.'' Erickson said he and the student suffered back injuries.

With files from CJME

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  • Rescuers work at the site where a plane careered off the runwaw at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. A Tu-204 aircraft belonging to Russian airline Red Wings careered off the runway at Russia's third-busiest airport on Saturday, broke into pieces and caught fire, killing several people. (AP Photo/Alexander Usoltsev)

  • Rescuers work at the site where a plane careered off the runway at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. A Tu-204 aircraft belonging to Russian airline Red Wings careered off the runway at Russia's third-busiest airport on Saturday, broke into pieces and caught fire, killing several people. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

  • Rescuers work at the site where a plane careered off the runway at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. A Tu-204 aircraft belonging to Russian airline Red Wings careered off the runway at Russia's third-busiest airport on Saturday, broke into pieces and caught fire, killing several people. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

  • Rescuers work at the wreckage of a plane which careered off the runway at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. A Tu-204 aircraft belonging to Russian airline Red Wings careered off the runway at Russia's third-busiest airport on Saturday, broke into pieces and caught fire, killing several people. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

  • Wreckage of a plane which careered off the runway at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. A Tu-204 aircraft belonging to Russian airline Red Wings careered off the runway at Russia's third-busiest airport on Saturday, broke into pieces and caught fire, killing several people. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

  • Rescuers work at the site where a plane careered off the runway at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. A Tu-204 aircraft belonging to Russian airline Red Wings careered off the runway at Russia's third-busiest airport on Saturday, broke into pieces and caught fire, killing several people. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)