Update Georgetown: Pilot Jumps From Moving Plane As Fire And Smoke Fill The Cockpit

Georgetown – Delaware State Police are currently investigating the incident in which an aircraft caught fire shortly after taking off from a Georgetown airport yesterday afternoon, according to Public Information Officer, Master Corporal Jeffrey R. Hale.

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Hale said that at approximately 2:07 p.m. yesterday, Saturday, January 28, 2017, as Donald Byrne, 59, of Lusby, MD, had just taken off in a single engine plane from the Sussex County Airport located at 21553 Rudder Lane, Georgetown.

After reaching a height of approximately 1400 feet, the plane’s cockpit began to fill with smoke. Byrne was able to bring the plane back to the airport, where just prior to landing, fire became visible in the cockpit. Upon landing, Byrne jumped from the plane while it was still in motion. The plane came to rest in a grassy area a short distance away and became fully engulfed in flames.

Donald Byrne was removed from the scene by ambulance and transported to Beebe Healthcare where he was treated for his non-life threatening injuries.

The investigation into this incident by the Delaware State Police and the Federal Aviation Administration is on-going. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

Orginal Story

Georgetown – Just after 2:00 p.m. today, Saturday, January 28, 2017 Georgetown Fire Company was dispatched to the Delaware Coastal Airport in Georgetown, Delaware.

A 60-year-old Calvert County, Md., pilot is recovering from minor injuries after he had to declare an emergency shortly after takeoff from Delaware Coastal Airport near Georgetown, where he safely landed and exited the aircraft before it became engulfed in flames, according to Sussex County EMS.

airport-georgetown-plane2The incident occurred shortly after 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, when the pilot, part of a group of recreational aviators visiting the area for the day, declared an emergency within moments of taking off from the airport’s crosswind runway.

The pilot turned the aircraft around, landing it on the runway, where it rolled to a stop in a grass infield. The pilot exited as flames consumed the 1960 Piper Tripacer. Crews from Georgetown, Ellendale, Millsboro, and Milton fire companies, along with units from Sussex County EMS, Georgetown EMS and Delaware State Police, responded to the emergency, which also touched off a wind-swept brush fire along the runway.

It took fire crews approximately an hour to get the fire under control. Damage to the infield was limited to an approximately five- to 10-acre area. The pilot was transported to a local hospital for evaluation and treatment of minor injuries. The airport was closed to air traffic during the response. Airport officials have reported the incident to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board for investigation.

Early reports that the plane had crash were unfounded.

Image Credits: Delaware State Poice, Sussex County EMS

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First State Update's Delaware editorial team covers New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County breaking news, political news, and general news stories. We bring the reader the latest news from the Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Rehoboth Beach and all point in between. If you have news to share, email us at desk@firststateupdate.com.