Passenger lands plane following pilot’s medical emergency


An incident involving an incoming small private aircraft at MVY Airport has led to the hospitalization of one person.

Officials say at 3:12 pm Saturday afternoon, a Piper Meridian Turboprop six-seat plane reportedly crashed at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. 

According to local police, a 68-year-old female passenger took control of the plane after the craft’s 80-year-old pilot began experiencing a medical emergency.

The woman was able to land the plane without engaging its landing gear. Although the aircraft’s left wing snapped in half upon impact, the woman sustained only minor injuries.

The pilot was transferred to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital from the airport, and then to Boston for additional treatment.

The airport’s primary commercial runway had been shut down, but reopened by 5:30 pm.

The situation is under investigation by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and Massachusetts State Police.

Officials say the plane, which is registered in Connecticut to Access Yacht Sales, LLC, was traveling from a Westchester, N.Y., airport Saturday. The pilot and the passenger who landed the plane were the only people in the craft at the time. 

Although owners of the company are listed as Randolph Martin Bonnist and Robin Bonnist, as of Monday, the identities of the pilot and his passenger have not been confirmed.

The FAA lists Randolph Bonnist as a certified pilot from Norwalk, Conn. He was issued a certificate for a single-engine and multiple-engine plane in 2007. 


  1. Holy Moly, an eighty year old piloting a small plane and losing control??Most commercial pilots are compelled to retire at a sensible age. Are there no rules for private planes??Yikes! As if we don’t have enough other issues on our tiny M.V. Perhaps yet another instance of some individuals believing themselves to be invulnerable to consideration of possible impact on innocent others.

    • MV is not tiny, look at the size of aircraft that land here.
      When you drive your car do you consider the possible impact on innocent others?

    • I know 80YOs who are extremely competent at operating complicated machinery (starting with cars). Doreen Kinsman, why do you leap to the conclusion that NO ONE who’s 80 years old is qualified to fly a plane? Medical emergencies happen to 30 and 40 year olds. Think about it.

      • Give Doreen a break. You dont prove something by its exceptions. Of course in general 80 year olds are not as safe. Doreen did not say ”no one is capable at 80”.

        • “Holy Moly, an eighty year old piloting a small plane and losing control?”
          How old is too old to pilot a plane.
          Conservatives seem to have no problem with age based discrimination, among many others.

        • Are 80 year old Presidents safe?
          Is driving 850 miles a day safe?
          Professional drivers are limited to 715 miles a day.

          Lucid Air, 1200 hp, 2 seconds to 60, range 512 miles, 12 minutes of charge for 200 miles, can be used to power your house when the wind turbines fail, very affordable for successful Conservatives.

          • to paraphrase the article– why wouldn’t a successful self proclaimed millionaire drive one of them ?
            Answer– because they can’t get past their own blinders and deny reality at every turn if it doesn’t fit their idiotic biases.
            Pretty sad– I would think that someone who drives 800 miles a day would love that car, but if you don’t believe it exist then we just come back to Forrest Gump ;
            “stupid is as stupid does “

    • Age discrimination at its finest right here. I’ve met people over 80 that can run circles around people in their 40s.

  2. Why didn’t she engage the landing gear? Obviously she was able to get the aircraft on the ground, she definitely should have had sense enough to push a button to engage the landing gear, right? Especially if she was in contact with the tower at the airport she landed at, I would think anyway!

    • Was this the first time she ever landed an airplane?
      Was this the first time she ever landed an airplane sitting next to her sick and perhaps dieing husband?
      The tower was trying to get them on the ground alive, not give flying lessons.
      Most tower controllers have never operated landing gear.

    • Jim– in a more detailed story in the other Vineyard paper, it was stated that they were on a final approach. She may have thought the gear was already down, didn’t know how to do it, or didn’t know how to fly the plane well enough to abort a landing and do a circle around.
      If the airfield was in sight, and she was heading right for it, it may have been her best option.
      Nobody died– that’s a pretty good outcome.

    • Maybe you’ve never been under pressure in a high-intensity situation that you had no experience with?

  3. Wow! At the very least she saved her own life! Wonder if she has pilot training, or a license of her own.

    • Classes are given for just that type of emergency: a non-pilot frequent passenger learns to communicate with the tower and learns how to follow instructions to land a small plane. That said, I used to fly frequently with a friend who was a very competent pilot, but I admit that I always worried when we took off that I hadn’t taken those classes. I used to often wear headphones so that I could try to understand the tower’s responses, but that didn’t really help.

  4. Kiddos to the woman for landing the plane without major injuries. The plane can be repaired.

  5. So thankful both pilot and passenger survived this crash and with what is considered to be, minor injuries. Kudos to the woman that took over the controls in such a stressful situation! Great job!!

  6. What most of us would like to know;
    1. Did the passenger have any prior flying experience?
    2. She was most likely in comms with MV tower and/or approach (if they exist) and/or enroute controller. What kind of assistance was provided. There will be recordings of radio transmissions and those will be interesting.

    The fact that the gear were not lowered and that she landed short of the airport indicate very limited flying experience. Given that, she did a remarkable job of saving their lives.

    An educated guess (not knowing the specifics of this aircraft); the plane likely had an autopilot/autothrottle engaged. This is immensely helpful in managing the aircraft.

    Anyway, well done!

  7. Us pilots have a saying. Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing. It’s possible had she dropped the gear the plane could have rolled into an obstacle with worse results.

    • Not from the Aircraft owner’s point of view.
      The plane had brakes, even easier to operate than landing gear.
      They always operate the same on this class of plane.

  8. The woman certainly did a remarkable job of getting the plane on the ground with no significant injuries to herself or the pilot. The response of the Airport’s emergency crew was no less remarkable. They were at the plane in literally a minute after it crashed, found it safe to approach, promptly extricated the pilot, with some difficulty, and began CPR. He has survived. They did a great job. (I’m an Airport Commissioner.)

  9. A friend that was a commercial pilot used to say (in jest of course), “any landing you can walk away from is a good one.”

  10. I am in awe of everyone responsible for and involved in the lives saved in this horrible emergency.

Comments are closed.