Plane crashes into Tradewinds fence

Pilot uninjured, but controversy is back.

A plane crashed into the fence at Tradewinds yesterday. — Courtesy Mary Austin via Facebook

Updated @ 1:05 pm

A plane taking off at the Trade Wind Fields Preserve in Oak Bluffs had trouble with the wind and had to abort its flight, crashing into a fence post and knocking it down, James Lengyel, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, told The Times.

The pilot wasn’t injured, but the incident is resurrecting the controversy over the fence erected by the Land Bank at the property known locally as Tradewinds.

The incident is reigniting the controversy over the fence installation, which drew the ire of people who use the conservation land for dog walking and camaraderie.

Mark Jenkins, a critic of the fence, wrote in an email to The Times: “The Land Bank was repeatedly warned by Trade Wind users that the fence would be an aviation hazard, and unfortunately, that has been shown to be correct. This warning even appeared in the petition that was signed in 2017 by several hundred people who opposed the fence. Given how few take-offs actually occur at Trade Wind, the fact that an accident should occur so soon after the fence was constructed does not bode well for the future.’”

Lengyel said he’s heard the opposite. “I’ve heard people saying, ‘Isn’t it good that there was a fence there and that nobody was walking out there at the time? What a relief,’” he said. “That’s what we’re hearing.”

Phil Cordella, who led a “Why the Fence” campaign, chuckled at that notion. “It’s horrible there’s a fence there,” he said. “I don’t care if a plane lands there. I think planes and people can coexist, they have for 30 years. I believe they can coexist. If it’s obvious a plane is landing, who would not move out of the way and control a pet if they had one.”

Land Bank officials maintain the fence was put up in part to protect rare species of flora and fauna such as purple tiger beetle, purple needlegrass, northern blazing star, and sandplain blue-eyed grass on the 72-acre preserve.

Lengyel said Land Bank staff was out Friday repairing the fence. “It’s not a significant repair job at all,” he said.

Of more concern, Cordella said, is that someone is actively promoting the airfield. While fewer than 30 pilots filled out forms to land at Tradewinds last year, 143 pilots have filled out the form this year, according to a Facebook post by Cindy Krauss, financial manager at the Land Bank, responding to Cordella.

“Who is promoting it?” he said.

Updated to include comments from Cordella – Ed.


  1. Lengyel is correct. If a pilot can’t miss a fence, they might not be able to miss a person or a dog.
    And some dogs might chase a plane. Also, there are plenty of people out there with earbuds on, looking at their phones, and would not notice a plane until it hit them.

  2. Not walking into a plane and controlling your dog is easy. For those who can’t do that they needed to be outed on the new facebook group I’m working on, Dog Owners Behaving Badly!

  3. When I walked the lovely field at Tradewinds, decades ago, I might have had a dog with me, I don’t remember. I might have been walking alone. That great expanse of grass surrounded by Oak and Pine, wasn’t about dogs or “comradarie”. It was simply a place to be, to reflect, to think. What a shame (shame on you, Land Bank) that this Oak bluffs beauty was ruined by an irrational dictate.

  4. In the 40 years or so when walkers and pilots co-existed at Trade Wind Field Preserve, the total number of collisions between airplanes and people was … zero. It has only been a few months since the 1.5 mile fence was erected and already there has been an accident. Despite efforts by the Land Bank to downplay the incident, this is a serious problem.

  5. The following sentence is from the 2017 petition that I referenced when the Times asked me for a quote: “Additionally, no independent investigation has been done to determine whether the fence is an impediment to aviation, and some pilots suggest it is.” That petition was signed by several hundred people and can be read in its entirety here:

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