Smithfield, R.I. – May 23, 1979

Smithfield, Rhode Island – May 23, 1979

     On May 23, 1979, a 22-year-old pilot from Foxborough, Massachusetts, left Robert La Fleur Airport in Waterville, Maine, in a rented Cessna 150, bound for Norfolk, Massachusetts.  Prior to take off he’d been assured that the weather would be clear over Massachusetts. However, when he got to within ten miles of Norfolk he encountered cloudy wet weather and visibility dropped to near zero.  His aircraft lacked instruments that would have enabled him to fly in such weather.  Unable to find his way, he contacted Boston for instructions, but they were unable to pick up his aircraft on their radar.   He then began to circle the area, but before long he found he was running low on fuel.  Boston was still unable to pick the aircraft up on radar, so he was advised to head south towards Providence, Rhode Island, and to see if Providence would see him on their radar.  However, Providence was unable to locate him on their radar also, and his fuel was running out.  Then he saw an opening in the clouds that would allow him to make a visual landing.  He came down over Interstate 295 in the town of Smithfield, barely missing some tall light poles.  Then he spotted an open field where the Smithfield Crossing shopping mall is located today, and attempted to land, but at the last moment saw a car parked on the field in his path, so he aborted the landing and began to circle around for another try.  As he was making his second attempt the plane ran out of gas, but he made it to the field and was able to set down and skid to a stop.  The airplane wasn’t damaged, and the pilot was unhurt.

     Two days later, local and state police blocked off Rt. 295 at the Rt. 44 exit to allow the plane to take off and be flown back to Massachusetts.       


     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Pilot Ends White-Knuckle Plane Flight Safely”, May 24, 1979, page B-11

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Town Police Let Airplane Pilot Use Road As Runway”, May 26, 1979

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