A New England pilot whose first attempt at flying a marriage proposal over the shores of Rhode Island literally crash-landed took flight again Tuesday to give the bride-to-be a chance to say yes.
Mark Simmons first took off from the Westerly Airport in Washington County, R.I., around 3 p.m., Monday to fly a “Michelle will you marry me? Mike,” banner proposal for a client over the waters near Block Island.
Nearly 10 minutes into the flight, however, the engine of his Piper Pawnee plane died, according to local ABC affiliate WLNE-TV.
“I got about six miles into the trip and the engine ran rough for a brief second and then completely stopped,” Simmons, the owner of Conn.-based Simmons Aviation, which has a division called Banner Tow-USA, said.
“I just did whatever I had to do to make sure I got on the water safely,” he said. “I put a Mayday call out and the only person that heard me was Ethan.”
Ethan is Simmons’ 8-year-old son. He heard his dad’s Mayday call over the airport’s radio transmission and initiated the rescue effort by alerting airport personnel and giving them information on his dad’s whereabouts.
“I ran fast but not too fast that I would drop the radio,” Ethan said of his response. “They said that everything would be OK and we had a pilot that was a firefighter too and he was helping.”
Out in the water, Simmons clung to the airplane’s tires for dear life, while on the shores the would-be fiancé who had hired Simmons to fly the banner waited anxiously.
“While it was happening, I was pacing the beach. I was really worried,” said Mike Flynn, who planned the grand scheme for his girlfriend, Michelle.
Simmons used the plane’s landing gear strapped to his body to keep him afloat for the nearly one hour he had to wait before being rescued. Boaters nearby saw him waving his orange shorts and rescued him before the Coast Guard could arrive.
Simmons was unhurt in the crash and so the next day he got back in a plane to fulfill the marriage proposal that had been left up in the air.
“He called and was really apologetic and really sincere,” Flynn said of the pilot. “He said, ‘You know, I would like to continue. … I would like to finish what I started. I got another plane and I can fly it any day this week.’”
So Simmons flew over the shores of Block Island Tuesday with the “Michelle will you marry me? Mike,” banner. This time Flynn got down on one knee and popped the question to his girlfriend.
She said yes but also had a few questions for her now fiancé.
“I wasn’t sure why it took him two days of pacing the beach just to propose to me on the beach,” she said. “Until I saw the plane.”