Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pilot who landed plane on I-95 resigns from Maine Warden Service

The Maine Warden Service pilot who managed a daring landing on Interstate 95 in April has resigned. 

According to his Facebook page, pilot Dan Dufault announced Saturday that, after 10 years of service, he is "looking forward to my next ten year adventure."

Officials from the warden service would not comment on Dufault's resignation Tuesday night.

Dufault's resignation comes three months after he was praised for making an emergency landing of a 1968 Cessna T41C on the interstate without incident in Litchfield on April 26.

Warden Service Col. Joel Wilkinson said it was "highly likely" the aircraft ran out of fuel.

A Warden Service spokesman was quick to back away from that, citing the cause as "mechanical failure."

A witness on the ground, Randall Greenleaf, who lives only 600 feet from the former Maine Turnpike service plaza in Litchfield where Dufault brought the Cessna to rest, said he heard the engine cut out in the air.

"I heard the engine quit, and then I heard the sound of the wind over the wings," Greenleaf said. "It was just a 'shhh' sound from the wings as it drifted overhead."

Federal Aviation Agency regulations state that any aircraft operating under visual flight rules, as Dufault was, would have to carry enough fuel to make it to the destination (Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport) plus an additional 30 minutes of reserve.

In his initial report to the FAA, the Aircraft Accident/Incident Preliminary Notice, Dufault stated, "Aircraft conducting survey work, had mechanical issues and landed safely on Interstate 95 North at mile marker 98."

In an updated report following the incident, a Warden Service spokesman said Dufault experienced "some sort of fuel problem."

In documents obtained by the Sun Journal on Monday, the only maintenance performed on the aircraft following the incident was an inspection of the fuel systems ordered by the FAA as part of its inquiry.

That inspection, performed by Gordon W. Pease of Horizon Aircraft Services concluded: "After inspection of the fuel system, no discrepancies were noted and observing the action of the fuel gauges, my finding are that the fuel gauges are accurate."

Further documentation of the FAA investigation through the Freedom of Information Act was denied. "They form part of the decision-making process by which the FAA determines if the case warrants further enforcement action," according to the FAA.

The letter further explains that disclosure could interfere with an enforcement proceeding.

The aircraft involved in the incident, a former Air Force trainer, has been part of the Maine Warden Service fleet since it was acquired from the U.S. Air Force in 2008.

Over the past year of service records, invoices from Horizon Aircraft Services have totaled $51,992 for the aging aircraft.

The Cessna is one of three in the Warden Service's fleet.


A Warden Service plane is parked on a ramp of a former highway rest stop on April 26 along Interstate 95 in Litchfield. 
Photo Courtesy:  Joe Phelan 

A Warden Service plane takes off from Interstate 95 in Litchfield on April 26.
Photo Credit:  Joe Phelan

Warden Service plane takes off from Interstate 95 in Litchfield following an emergency landing.