A Boutique Air passenger plane made an unplanned landing at the Cortez Municipal Airport Wednesday evening after the pilot noticed a drop in cabin air pressure.
The Pilatus PC-12 landed safely at 8:50 p.m. No passengers were on board, and the pilot was OK, said Airport Manager Jeremy Patton.
The pilot was ferrying the plane from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to Denver International Airport. It is part of the fleet that serves Cortez.
The plane had a “pressurization issue” 15 miles from Cortez, Patton said.
The solo pilot reduced altitude and declared an emergency, then diverted to the Cortez Municipal Airport, the nearest runway.
The pilot could have continued flying at a lower altitude but in working with air traffic control, the decision was made to divert to Cortez, Patton said.
The plane remained at Cortez Municipal Airport for repair and inspection based on Boutique Air protocols, said Robert Yarbrough, president of the Cortez Flying Service at the airport. The Flying Service could be contracted for the repairs.
The plane must pass inspection before it can resume commercial flights.
Patton said the grounded plane has not affected Boutique Air’s scheduled round-trip flights to Denver and Phoenix.
Emergency crews from the airport, Cortez Fire Protection District, Cortez Police Department, Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office and Southwest Health System Ambulance responded to a dispatch call.
Pilots relay plane emergencies to Denver Air Traffic Control, said Cortez Fire Protection District. They then contact local dispatchers, who alert emergency responders.
The nature of the emergency was unclear at first, Balfour said. He called for mutual aid from area fire departments in case help was needed.
‘When we arrived, the plane had landed safely, and the pilot was fine,” Balfour said.
According to Flight Aware, the plane took off from Phoenix at 6:28 p.m. for a planned 602-mile flight to Denver. It flew at an altitude of 25,000 feet. One hour and 8 minutes into the flight, it descended and landed at the Cortez Airport after flying 352 miles.
Boutique Air did not respond to The Journal’s request for comment.