Plane lands just short of Portsmouth's 18th green

Muddy rough slows aircraft; Franklin, Mass., couple escapes unharmed

Story and photos by Bob Dunn

On the morning of Saturday, April 21, I was sitting in the clubhouse of the Portsmouth Country Club talking with a couple of members when one suddenly said "LOOK! A PLANE IS LANDING!"  We all turned and began to move outside to help if necessary.  By that time the plane (a small private aircraft) had come to a stop just short of the 18th green, the doors had opened, and a women and a man were getting out.  I ran to my car to grab my camera and shot the following picture as I approached the 18th green.  

Pilot Tim Thornhill just misses the green after a great emergency landing.

If you look closely you can see the tracks that the plane made as it went from the 10th fairway into the wet rough area and then to the 18th fairway.  The pilot, Tim Thornhill and his wife Sue, from Franklin, Mass., had departed from the Mansfield, Mass., airport and were enroute to the Sanford, Maine, airport for a late breakfast. Tim has been flying for twenty years and has never had a problem; however, his training and his expertise certainly paid off on Saturday, when he lost oil pressure.  He had radioed Pease Airport tower for an emergency landing, but suddenly the engine stopped and he saw the vacant fairways of Portsmouth and made a fast descent in order to land while he could still avoid the woods.  He told me that his speed at landing was 120mph and that the wetness in the rough had helped slow him down or he probably would have ended up in the woods or on the green.

Member Jim Varotsis with pilot Tim on the telephone to the FAA just after landing.

Sue and Tim Thornhill with great smiles after a most memorable experience.

After about twenty minutes we heard the sirens, and the Greenland EMT, Fire Truck and Police arrived and Tim was kept busy for quite a while.

All of the emergency response equipment and personnel arrive.

Sue and Tim ended up safe and sound and had a great complimentary lunch at the Portsmouth Country Club before boarding a friend's plane at Pease Airport for the flight back to Maynard.

May, 2007