Small plane catches fire just before departing from Venice, Florida, airport

Posted at 6:00 AM, Nov 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-18 06:53:54-05

VENICE, Fla. — (WFTS/WWSB/CNN) - A pilot and passenger escaped their small plane after it became engulfed in flames Sunday afternoon in Venice, Florida.

Officials said it occurred just after noon at the Venice Municipal Airport.

Police said the aircraft was just about to take off when the pilot smelled smoke in the Piper PA-32 Cherokee 6, a single-engine six-seater.

The pilot, Bill Stiver, aborted the takeoff and quickly exited the aircraft before it became fully engulfed in flames shortly afterward. The fire was under control at 12:37 p.m.

"Something just didn't feel right, and what I did was a circle. You do that to kind of test out the aircraft's brakes and to look for problems," said Stiver. "As I started to get out of my seat, climbing out of the aircraft, the flames were just leaping over the wing. In fact, I burnt some of the hair on my arm as I jumped off the aircraft."

According to Fire Battalion Chief Steve Worobel, the plane was full of fuel at 80 gallons. Hazmat crews were able to recover and mitigate 30 gallons of fuel at the scene.

There were no reports of injuries.

The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the cause of the fire.