Crist's campaign plane loses engine then lands safely

Published September 4, 2006

ORLANDO -- A plane carrying Attorney General Charlie Crist on a busy final day of campaigning before Tuesday’s primary was forced to make an emergency landing Monday because of engine trouble.

The pilot of the twin-engine Astra jet described it as a “fan imbalance” and said he flew back to Orlando on one engine.

The twin-engine Israeli-made Astra jet left Orlando shortly before 2 p.m. and was headed to Fort Myers when a loud grinding noise was heard in one of the engines as the plane was elevating.

“That’s never happened,” Crist said as he exited the aircraft. “You just hope for the best and say your prayers, which I did, and it worked out.”

He called his father, Dr. Charles Crist, in St. Petersburg to let him know he was safe. A half hour later, Crist was sound asleep in a reclining chair in the executive airport’s pilot lounge.

A grounded Crist was forced to cancel planned campaign stops in West Palm Beach and Boca Raton while his campaign scrambled to find new aircraft.

Others aboard the plane included Crist’s campaign chief of staff, George LeMieux; travel aide Dayne Eagle; and reporters for the Orlando Sentinel and St. Petersburg Times.

Crist said he has frequently flown on the same plane without any problems.

The campaign said the plane is owned by Dr. Zachariah Zachariah, a Fort Lauderdale cardiologist who is a supporter of Crist’s Republican primary opponent, Tom Gallagher.

Earlier Monday, Crist attended campaign events in Jacksonville and Orlando. Lew Oliver, chairman of the Orange County Republican Party and a Crist supporter, said the turnout in greater Orlando would likely between somewhere between 18 and 24 percent.