(WASHINGTON) - A leaking fuel cap was the culprit that caused an airplane pilot to make an emergency landing Monday on an empty stretch of the I-69 corridor under construction at Epsom.
Andrea McCann of the Washington Times-Herald reports that a loose nut inside the fuel cap prevented it from sealing tight and allowed fuel to leak from one of the aircraft's two fuel tanks, according to Tom Snow, whose Signal Mountain, Tenn., business, Snowbird Aviation Corp., owns the plane. However, that wasn't apparent until the Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft was on the ground.
Once the pilot landed he could see fuel streaks on the wing of the 1987 fixed-wing, single-engine plane, according to Snow. He said a rubber bladder contains fuel inside the wing. Suction from the air pulling at the fuel bladder kept the fuel gauge from registering, he explained, and when the fuel ran out the engine stopped.
Because the pilot was uncertain about the nature of the problem from the air, he decided to play it safe and land the aircraft instead of simply switching to the other fuel tank. Though the Beechcraft Bonanza has seating for six, only the pilot was on board at the time of the incident.
"The pilot is very experienced," Snow said. "We do a lot of training for these type of situations, and he did the right thing. He saw a good spot to land and he took advantage of it."
Snowbird Aviation leases the plane to the pilot's company, and Snow did not wish to release either name. The pilot was flying from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Danville, Ill. There were no injuries and no damage in the 11:30 a.m. incident.
"It was a serious situation the pilot handled very well," Snow said. "I'm very thankful everybody's OK. The airplane was not damaged, but that's way down the list."
Cher Elliott, media relations director for the Indiana Department of Transportation Southwest District, said there were no workers in the area where the plane landed, so there were no injuries and the workday was not disrupted. She also said there was no damage to the new highway.
"I can't say enough about the way everyone responded," Snow said of local emergency responders and airport personnel. "A mechanic came over from the airport and fixed the problem."
He said additional fuel also was brought to the scene from the DC Airport.
An Indiana State Police trooper secured the scene until aviation investigators could arrive and approve the plane's takeoff, which was around 6 p.m. Monday, according to the Daviess County Sheriff's Department. A final report has not yet been released.
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