BLUE HILL, Maine — A man and woman from Massachusetts were unharmed Sunday when the small airplane they were riding in made an emergency landing in a field at the corner of Route 175 and Wharf Road, according to officials.
According to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, Scott Morton, 59, of Worcester, Mass., was piloting the two-seat, single-engine Beechcraft plane and Cheryl Rennie, 48, of Millbury, Mass., was riding as his passenger when the engine quit as they were flying over Blue Hill Bay. They had left Sterling, Mass., at 8:45 a.m. with 30 gallons of fuel on board and were flying at an altitude of about 4,500 feet to the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton when the incident occurred, the sheriff’s department indicated in a prepared statement.
“As they approached Tinker’s Island in Blue Hill Bay, the engine, starving for fuel, stalled,” Deputy Fred Ehrlenbach wrote in the statement. “Unable to restart the engine, Morton looked for a place to set the aircraft down and saw a field just north of the South Blue Hill public boat launch in Blue Hill.”
Morton turned the plane back toward the west and, flying low over Blue Hill Bay, approached the field and landed in it around 10:30 a.m., bending a propellor and breaking off the front wheel under the nose of the plane when it struck a small rise that runs parallel to a lane that runs through the field.
Neither Morton nor Rennie was injured during the emergency landing, the sheriff’s office indicated.
On Monday, the plane remained unattended in the field. Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration were expected to visit the accident scene on Tuesday, officials said.
The FAA released a short statement Monday on the incident.
“At approximately 10:30 a.m. yesterday, a single-engine Beech 77 aircraft landed in a field off Route 175 under unknown circumstances,” the statement indicated. “The two people on board reportedly were not injured. The extent of damage to the aircraft, if any, has not yet been determined. The FAA is investigating. This is preliminary information.”
According to a publicly accessible online FAA aircraft database, the plane is owned by Morton and was manufactured in 1979.
Philip Tanguay, himself a licensed commercial airplane pilot, lives on Wharf Road, directly across from the field where the plane landed. He said Monday that he was home Sunday morning but did not see the plane land. He did speak to the pilot a few minutes after the plane touched down.
“He did a nice job of landing it there,” Tanguay said of Morton. “They were pretty shook up. They were only 10 miles out [from the Trenton airport].”
Tanguay, retired from his manufacturing business in Connecticut, said Morton told him they had planned to just fly up for the day. They were going to meet friends at the Trenton airport and visit Acadia National Park before heading back to Massachusetts Sunday evening.
The South Blue Hill resident said Morton told him that the plane’s right fuel tank ran dry. The Beechcraft has tanks in either wing, Tanguay said, but they are connected and are meant to drain at the same time and rate as the engine burns off fuel. Morton said, according to Tanguay, that the plane had some sort of mechanical malfunction that prevented fuel from flowing between the two tanks.
“It will fly again,” Tanguay said of the plane as it still sat in the field across from his house. “They’ll haul it out of here.”
After Tanguay spoke, Rob Malone of Columbia Air Service, the fixed-base operator at the Trenton airport, arrived to deactivate the emergency locator transmitter, which was still sending out a signal. Malone said that he knew nothing about the incident or the pilot and that he was turning off the beacon at the request of FAA.
Doug Martenson of Philadelphia showed up at the site early Monday afternoon to get photos of the plane. He said he and other family members heard the plane flying low Sunday morning over a house they are renting down the road.
Martenson said the plane’s engine was making a distinctive “roaring” sound as it flew over the house. He did not see the plane or hear the engine cut out and did not know what had happened to it until he saw it sitting in the field Monday morning.
“You [normally] don’t hear planes that vividly,” Martenson said. “I was thinking ‘he’s either flying really low to look at something or something’s going on.’”