(Reporter’s note: Dean Corbett, chef-owner of Corbett’s: An American Place, Equus and Jack’s Lounge, cooked at the Nantucket Food & Wine Festival in mid-May. The prestigious and pricey event, held annually on Nantucket Island, just east of Massachusetts, features wine tasting and culinary events. Corbett flew to the festival with Louisville brothers Ted and David Steinbock, along with Ted’s girlfriend and David’s wife, on a Beechcraft Duke, piloted by David Steinbock. Their flight to Nantucket was uneventful. The return flight, however, required an emergency landing at nearby Hyannis Port, on the south coast of Massachusetts.We considered writing this like a news story, but decided instead to let the tale be told in Corbett’s own words.)
So this festival is unreal. You can’t believe the houses, the money these people have. It’s gorgeous up there.
My buddy is Ted Steinbock, a physician in town, and he had a friend who invited me to work at the festival. I’d always wanted to do that one, and he made it happen.
On the main day, Saturday, there were 22 events, wine tastings every two hours, and culinary demos.
On the Friday night before, we did private dinners with the wine makers. Eight chefs in eight houses. Surely my house was $10 million.
We had the only 100-point-rated Chateau-Neuf Du Pape going — at my dinner. That was pretty cool.
The meal was six courses, but the owner was on a diet. With every course, he would get up and go to the kitchen and get some high-fiber crackers. It was the craziest thing.
And yeah, the wine was good.
On Sunday, May 19 … David Steinbock was the pilot. We flew direct there, no stops, because we had a tailwind. But we were supposed to stop on the way back to get fuel because we had a headwind.
Twenty-five minutes into the flight, we heard a bang, and the pilot said, ‘What the hell was that?’ As soon as that happened, it was autopilot off, alarms started going off on the plane.
He eventually cut the alarms off.
The engine was still running some, but he immediately knew he were going to lose an engine. But he was cool as a cucumber.
He thought maybe we had water in the fuel, and he was trying to throttle it up and down to get it going again because it was still turning.
Luckily it wasn’t bad fuel because we’d have lost the other one, too.
But after a minute I looked over and saw the propeller stopped. When you see that stop … I hate to use the term surreal, but it was.
I’m in the copilot’s seat with the headset on and I can hear the communication between us and the tower. I look back at the (four passengers) and I give them the thumbs up just to keep everyone from panicking, but I’m hearing the pilot telling the tower (in Hyannis Port) we’ve got an emergency and we need to land. And the thing that’s going through my mind is we’re going to crash land onto water.
I don’t swim.
There was no question about returning to Nantucket. It was clear we were going to Hyannis Port and damn quick!
As I’m listening to the pilot and the tower, I’m looking at the altimeter and I can see we’re going down. Speed is going down. (Corbett has 50 hours training as a pilot.)
Next thing I hear on the radio is, “Hyannis Port Airport is now closed. We have a plane in distress.”
They’re telling other pilots, “Please reroute,” and asking our pilot things like, “How many passengers onboard? How much fuel are you carrying?” They wanted to know what they might find if we crashed.
Then the pilot throws me this book that every pilot has, and it’s full of diagrams of all these airports, and he says, “Find Hyannis Port.” I couldn’t find it. And he says, “It’s alphabetical!” And here I am, a 51-year-old man and I can’t find it! I was just freaked out.
As we got to the runway, the plane is all over the place because it’s only got one engine working and he’s trying to counter. So when he came in, he said, ‘Oh, no, I don’t want that wing to hit the landing strip.’
And as we’re coming in, the wind took us from this, (Corbett says, mimicking the plane’s attitude by positioning one hand in a sharp right to left tilt) “to that!” (shifting his hand sharply in the other direction).
But he got us down, and I’m here to tell you, the landing was phenomenal!
I was patting him on the back screaming, “You’re the man! You’re the man!’
When you’re finally on the ground, you see a lot more of what’s going on: ambulances ready, fire trucks there, those guys walking around in those silver suits ready for a fire. It hits you then just how serious they know it can be.
All that took about 20 minutes from the time we got in trouble to the time we landed. Seemed longer.
When we were finally on the ground, I was grateful to the pilot and the Good Lord for letting me get back to my wife and kids.
At Hyannis Port, my goodness, gracious, they treated us like gold. This shuttle bus came up with people asking, “Can we get anything for you? A blanket? Something to drink?” They knew we’d been through it. They were great.
When I called Julie (his wife), she said, “Thank God I didn’t go.” She doesn’t like us being on the same plane with each other or with the kids.
We went to Logan airport, took a taxi there (Corbett interrupts with a side story about the group’s taxi driver) and the driver was a freak. He was like Dietrich on (Barney Miller).
Just totally deadpan, he’d ask us without even moving his lips, no expression, “So, you survived a life and death experience? What were your physical responses? Did you have a rapid pulse? Where you palms sweating? Did you feel like you were going to throw up?” It was so annoying.
We got to Logan (International Airport in Boston) by 12:30 p.m., and we went to a bar and had a drink. Eventually I walked away from the group by myself and had a good cry.
The whole thing caught up to me, I got very emotional just thinking of Julie and the kids.
And believe me, I wasn’t too keen about climbing back onto another plane to go home.