Pilot makes emergency landing at Martha’s Vineyard Airport

Martha's Vineyard Airport was on alert. — File photo by Lynn Christoffers

The pilot of a chartered, twin-engine Piper Chieftain aircraft, flying from Nantucket to White Plains, New York, with nine passengers on board, smelled what he thought was smoke and made an emergency landing at Martha’s Vineyard Airport at about 8 pm on Monday.

The plane landed safely. Airport emergency crews found no sign of fire. Martha’s Vineyard Airport manager Sean Flynn said he closed the airport for about 20 minutes.

Airport fire crews, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians from surrounding Island towns responded to the initial call of a strong smell of smoke in the cockpit and a possible fire onboard an airplane. The order to stand down met with considerable relief, Mr. Flynn said.

“The pilot did the correct thing, which was to find the closest airport and land at it,” Mr. Flynn told The Times, in a telephone call shortly after 9 pm, Monday. “He landed safely and did a fantastic job. And all is well with the folks that were on the airplane.”

Mr. Flynn said the passengers, including one baby, remained calm. There was no evidence of fire in the plane but there was a strong, unidentifiable odor. Mr. Flynn said a mechanic will inspect the plane to try to identify the source of the odor.

“After removing the passengers, the pilot, and the aircraft from the runway where it landed, we inspected the runway and reopened it, and all is well,” Mr. Flynn said.

The aircraft was operated by the charter company Fly The Whale, a division of Lima NY Inc., according to a report published in The Inquirer and Mirror.

“Our pilot flying a Nantucket to White Plains flight in one of our Piper Chieftains noticed a smell that might have been caused by an electrical issue,” Fly The Whale’s chief operating officer Michael Siegel told the Nantucket weekly. “He correctly decided to make a precautionary landing at Martha’s Vineyard airport. The landing was textbook and uneventful.”

A majority of the passengers continued on to White Plains aboard another Fly The Whale aircraft, Mr. Siegel said.

Correction: An earlier online version of this story incorrectly referred to the Piper Chieftain as a twin-engine jet. It is a prop. The photo that accompanied the story pictured the wrong aircraft.