By Andryanna Sheppard and Nicole Gabe
Small banner plane makes safe emergency landing on Sanibel Island
A small airplane made a safe emergency landing on the beach on Sanibel Island Wednesday afternoon, both the city and FAA confirmed.
According to the FAA and city press releases, a Piper PA-25 operated by a pilot for Aerial Banners Inc. landed on the beach near West Gulf Beach Drive around 1:30 p.m.
The Piper model is a single-engine, single-seat aircraft, and the pilot was the sole occupant of the plane.
Upon landing safely, the pilot called Sanibel police and told them the plane began to sputter for unknown reasons, so the pilot released the banner he was flying and made the emergency landing on the beach.
Many people told us they’ve seen the plane towing its banner from up above frequently, but it’s not something most locals are used to seeing up close.
“I’ve never seen that before,” witness Matt Johnson said. “I was born and raised here, grew up in and around Sanibel and Pine Island, and I’ve never seen a plane on the beach like that.”
Witness Linda Linsmayer saw it all, from when the wheels touched down to when the plane took off back into the sky.
“It wasn’t your average afternoon looking for dolphins and manatees from the house. No,” Linsmayer said. “I could clearly hear sputtering and knew right away there was a problem.”
The 23-year-old pilot told WINK News carburetor ice caused the engine to malfunction, and he started losing altitude. That’s when he dropped the banner, now lost in the ocean, and made a safe landing on a mostly empty beach, avoiding people and turtle nests.
“I hollered right away, “Are you OK?” Linsmayer said. “And he said, ‘I’m just a little shaken, but I’m just great.’”
Beachergoers are glad everyone is OK, and witnesses praised him for a job well done.
“He did what he had to do,” witness Charlotte Wilcox said. “He did it very well, obviously.”
“I thought he did an absolutely brilliant job,” Linsmayer said.
Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Sanibel Fire Department and US Coast Guard are all on scene. FAA and Lee County Port Authority are both aware of the emergency landing.
The FAA is expected to investigate the incident.
There were no injuries reported due to the landing.
We reached out to Aerial Banners Inc. but are still waiting to hear back.
According to FlightAware, the plane is back on the east coast.