What started out as a normal day of flying for seasonal Katama resident and recreational pilot Dillon Newell soon turned into a strange and stinky situation, after he found a skunk hiding in the rear of his plane.
Every summer, Newell said he comes to the Island where his family owns a house and takes flight lessons at Katama Airfield. Late last month he was taking lessons from Paul Santopietro in his Cessna Bird Dog reconnaissance plane.
Newell said he had just taken off from Katama Airfield and was beginning to travel to Martha’s Vineyard Airport to do some “touch and go” training, when he noticed what smelled like a skunk in the cockpit.
At about 1,200 feet, Newell began to prepare for landing, when the smell started to grow stronger.
“I couldn’t imagine that it was a skunk on the ground, at first I was rather confused,” Newell said.
As Newell got closer to the runway, the smell continued to intensify. He radioed the tower at the airport and told them he suspected a skunk was stowed away aboard his aircraft.
“When I told them I thought there was a skunk on the plane, they really got a kick out of it,” Newell said.
After landing at the airport, Newell rushed to park his plane and made a speedy egress.
He checked around inside the cockpit and in the cabin, but couldn’t find any sign of a skunk. All the while, the smell continued to intensify.
After searching the plane, Newell went around to the tail cone and rapped on the metal.
“I started knocking and heard some scampering, which I thought was pretty strange,” Newell said.
He called airport security and told them about the skunk, at which point they offered to help him remove it.
But Newell said he didn’t want to let the skunk out in the middle of a busy public airport, so he offered to fly back to Katama with the skunk onboard.
“I hopped in the plane and flew back to the Katama Airfield as fast as I could,” Newell said.
After landing in Katama, Newell slowly opened the canvas flap in the rear of the plane that leads to the tail cone and watched as the skunk jumped out and ran off into the field.
“I have been flying since I was 7 years old, and I have never even heard of anything like that happening, it was pretty insane,” Newell said.