A small plane that had just taken off from the airport in East Hampton experienced engine trouble and the pilot turned the plane around, landed, and crashed off the runway 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 April 25 incident. On Saturday evening, he said that he and three other former Sound Aircraft Services employees were riding their motorcycles and made a pit stop at the 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,” Ricks said. They knew the maneuver meant the plane had lost power and the pilot was trying to land the plane, though they did not hear the engine fail. “The pilot maneuvered excellently.”
The pilot, who 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 a fence.
“She made an emergency return and she did exactly all the right things to make it back,” Ricks said. “Her aviation ability was beyond question.”
The plane traveled across Daniels Hole Road in Wainscott and came to rest in the field across from the airport. The crash was reported at about 1:50 PM.
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 Ricks said the pilot and her two passengers were not injured.
Those involved in the incident were able to get out of the plane 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 refused medical attention.
Firefighters helped to secure the plane. They ran through a checklist to ensure there were no fuel leaks and that the electric power was turned off, which the pilot had already done. Turza said she was “very skilled and very knowledgeable.”
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 airport’s manager, who was reached earlier on Saturday afternoon, said the airport will put together an official report.
Daniels Hole Road, which was closed for about an hour, was reopened after the plane was towed.
This article has been updated since it was first published at 3:39 PM.