BY | TAYLOR VECSEY
A small plane that had just taken off from East Hampton Airport experienced engine trouble and the pilot turned the plane around, landed and crashed off the runway on Saturday afternoon. While the plane was damaged, the pilot and her two passengers were not hurt, officials said.
The single-engine Piper Archer had just departed runway 28 and was about 400 feet up in the air when it made a sharp turn, according to Justin Ricks, a pilot who witnessed the incident. On Saturday evening he said that he and three other former Sound Aircraft employees were riding their motorcycles and made a pit stop at the East Hampton Airport when they noticed the plane turn 180 degrees.
“We call that the impossible turn — it’s a real hard one to make at that altitude,” he said. They knew the maneuver meant the plane had lost power and that pilot was trying to land the plane, though they did not hear the engine fail. “The pilot maneuvered excellently.”
The pilot, a woman he declined to name and whose name officials have not yet released, landed the plane on runway 10, and it went off the runway and crashed through the fence. “She made an emergency return and she did exactly all the right things to make it back,” he said. “Her aviation ability was beyond question,” he said.
The plane traveled across Daniel’s Hole Road in Wainscott and came to rest in the field across from the airport. The crash was reported at about 1:50 PM.
Mr. Ricks and his friends Michael Norbeck, Matthew Conrad and Matthew Monk all drove over to the field where the plane came to rest. The plane was “banged up,” but he said the pilot and her two passengers were not injured.
The pilot and passengers were able to get out on their own, though there was substantial damage to the wings and fuselage, East Hampton Fire Department Chief Gerard Turza Jr. said. The three women were checked by East Hampton Village Ambulance Association personnel, but they refused medical attention.
Firefighters helped to secure the plane. They ran through a check list to ensure there were no fuel leaks and that the electric power was turned off, which the pilot had already done. Chief Turza said she was “very skilled and very knowledgable.”
The fire department also stood by as airport personnel towed the plane back to the airport. It will be examined by the Federal Aviation Administration, which will investigate the cause of the accident, a normal procedure. Jim Brundige, the East Hampton Airport Manager, who was reached earlier on Saturday afternoon said the airport will put together an official report.
Daniel’s Hole Road, which was closed for about an hour, was reopened after the plane was towed.