Plane Catches On Fire at Delaware Coastal Airport - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Plane Catches On Fire at Delaware Coastal Airport

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GEORGETOWN, Del. - A Maryland man is recovering tonight after making an emergency landing in his private plane, which then caught on fire. 

Shortly after 2 p.m. on Saturday, Delaware State Police say 59-year-old  Donald Byrne from Lusby, Maryland took off at Delaware Coastal Airport. He was with a group of fellow recreational pilots in town for the day. Not long after takeoff, when he was about 1400 feet high, police say his cockpit began to fill with smoke. He then signaled he needed to make an emergency landing, then turned around and did so. Police say just prior to landing, fire became visible in the cockpit. Once he landed, Byrne jumped from the plane while it was still in motion. Shortly thereafter, it was engulfed in flames.

"He was able to loop the plane back around and safely exit the aircraft. I think that is a testament to his skill and his ability," said Sussex County Public Information Officer Chip Guy. "Certainly there's a large degree of luck involved, but I think the fact that he was able to bring it in safely and walked away from it, that's a good outcome any day of the week."

Byrne was taken to Beebe Hospital with minor injuries. The plane-- a 1960 Piper Tripacer-- was completely destroyed. Flames from the plane also extended to the grass around the plane, causing a small brush fire. Firefighters from Milton, Millsboro, Georgetown and Ellendale all responded to the scene. It took them about an hour to put out the brush fire.

"They were certainly bedeviled by the winds fanning the flames," said Guy. "The damage was limited to the grassy infield area that can always be replanted."

The incident caused the airport to close briefly. The airport has since reopened and reported the incident to the FAA and NTSB for an investigation.

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