Friday, December 04, 2009

Wiggins Airways Cessna Caravan pilot praised after forced landing near Rome, NY

by B.N. Sullivan

Wiggins AirwaysThe pilot of a Cessna 208 Caravan escaped injury yesterday when he made a forced landing in a field outside Rome, NY, following an engine failure. The aircraft, operating as Wiggins Airways flight WIG 8409 on behalf of FedEx, was on a scheduled air cargo flight between Syracuse Hancock International Airport and Plattsburgh International Airport (New York) when it lost power. According to preliminary data posted on the Web site of the FAA, the pilot, who was the sole occupant of the aircraft, was uninjured; the airplane was not damaged.

A news report about the incident on quoted an Oneida County official who said the aircraft lost power at about 7:45 a.m. December 3, 2009, at an altitude of about 7,500 feet. The aircraft was about 15 miles away from the airport at the former Griffiss Air Force Base. The pilot radioed a MAYDAY to air traffic control and attempted to divert to Griffiss (KRME), but the aircraft "rapidly lost altitude and air speed."

The pilot was identified by the company and the news media as Captain Peter May, who has more than 8,000 flight hours in this aircraft type. He has flown for Wiggins Airways since 1994.

Upon dropping out of the clouds at about 1,000 feet, May decided to either crash land in Lake Delta just north of Rome or a less populated area west of the lake. May chose to land in the hayfield of the Von Matt farm.

"He had the good wisdom to drop the flaps,which gave him lift," said Vernon May, commissioner of aviation in Oneida County. "He did everything right."
The Utica Observer-Dispatch quoted Wiggins Senior Vice President Andy Day, who said, “We’re very lucky to have Peter. When things like this happen, you hope to have people like Captain May at the controls. He did a very good job and did exactly what we train to do in the circumstance.”

The article about the incident on the Observer-Dispatch Web site includes a photo of the aircraft in the field where it landed.

According to, "The aircraft will be partially disassembled and trucked to Griffiss, where the FAA will attempt to determine the cause of the engine failure."