SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — People in the Snug Harbor area of South Kingstown got a surprise from above Saturday afternoon when a plane made an emergency landing in a residential yard.
The pilot walked away from the sudden landing without a scratch, and no one on the ground was injured, police said. The plane also managed to avoid damaging anything on the ground, although the aircraft became disabled because of the landing and later had to be hauled away on a flatbed.
“The police department responded to the call. The pilot was fine,” Town Manager Rob Zarnetske said. “It was a forced landing. To the best of my knowledge, what we had was bad weather and a small plane that was pulling a banner.”
The Federal Aviation Administration has started an investigation into why the plane was forced down suddenly at about 5 p.m. July 6 on Shannon Road.
Several people had called police to report the low-flying aircraft near Route 1 and Old Tower Hill Road. It circled the area for several minutes before landing, police said.
In addition to local police Rhode Island State Police responded to assist with the scene and the investigation. Members of the Union Fire District and South Kingstown Emergency Medical Services responded as well.
On Twitter, Stacey Leasca posted video that she said shows the plane over her parents’ home. In the 10-second clip, the plane, without a banner, makes a low pass over a road and some trees before flying out of view. The sky appears gray and slightly foggy.
Several people also took to Facebook to report seeing the low-flying plane.
“We were driving on U.S. 1 and passing the hospital in Wakefield and he came over,” Mike Westman said. “Real low and his tow banner was low too … I thought it was the fog … glad he made it.”
FAA records show the plane, a single-engine, single occupant PA-25, is registered to Simmons Aviation Services in Stonington, Connecticut, and is a banner-towing plane. It was built in 1961.
Simmons has a hangar at Westerly State Airport, according to its website. It offers charter and sightseeing flights and also conducts banner towing for paid ads and personal messages under the name Banner-Tow USA, established in 1985.
“We hangar a fleet of six Piper Pawnee airplanes, a Maule M7-235, a Cessna C172 and a Cessna L-19 Birddog, all of which are meticulously maintained and banner-tow capable,” the site says. “We have a minimum of four experienced pilots on hand during the core banner tow season to accommodate any of your aerial advertising and messaging needs.”
Federal records from the National Transportation Safety Board show that Simmons Aviation has experienced similar incidents in the recent past.
A banner-towing plane was forced to ditch into the ocean near Narragansett on July 4, 2016 after engine failure of an unknown cause, the NTSB reported. The pilot was not injured.
And another banner-towing plane used by Simmons made a forced landing in waters near Westerly on July 23, 2012 after experiencing engine trouble. The pilot also was not injured and was rescued.