James Warcup, an aeronautics inspector at Rhode Island Airport Corp., said the Piper Pawnee plane, which is registered to the owner of a banner towing company and was pulling a banner reading, "Will you marry me," took off from Westerly Airport around 3 p.m., headed for Block Island, The (New London, Conn.) Day reported Tuesday.
"Within 10 minutes the pilot reported a loss of power," Warcup said. "He elected to ditch the plane in the Block Island Sound. When he did, the landing gear broke."
Lt. Bryan Swintek, a Coast Guard spokesman at the Southeastern New England Sector at Woods Hole, Mass., said officials received a report around 3:21 p.m. of a radio transmission between a pilot and a young child, later identified as the pilot's 8-year-old son.
The Coast Guard got in touch with the boy, who told rescuers his father had gone down shortly after takeoff.
"He was incredibly calm," Swintek said. "He played a key role in helping his dad."
The pilot was picked up by a civilian boater before being turned over to the Coast Guard. The rescuers took him to Point Judith, where doctors determined he was not seriously injured.
Swintek said the Coast Guard is now trying to locate and recover the plane.