CIA deputy once made emergency landing in Newfoundland

Steve Bartlett
Published on August 19, 2013

The woman who became second-in-command at the U.S. spy agency earlier this month appears to have an incredible connection to this province.

Avril Haines, who was appointed deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Aug. 9, made an emergency landing in Newfoundland in the late ’80s or early ’90s while flying to Europe in a small plane.

A recent Newsweek profile said Haines and David Davighi, her then boyfriend and now husband, were en route to England from Bangor, Me., late one summer in a 1961 twin-engine Cessna 310 they had bought and fixed up.

“But while flying over the North Atlantic, they began to take on ice,” the article by Daniel Klaidman says. “Soon they were losing altitude. The plane lost one engine, then the other. Gliding 1,000 feet over the ominous Labrador Sea, they considered the possibility of a daring water landing in between the waves. There was an eerie silence and a sense of being alone in the world.”

According to the story, the couple’s plane broke through the fog and spotted the Newfoundland coast, “rocky and inhospitable.”

“By now, one of the two engines had sputtered back to life.

Miraculously, they spotted a small, isolated airport where they were able to land the plane. Socked in by bad weather, they were taken in for a week by the delighted residents of a remote town.”

Haines wasn’t quoted in Klaidman’s story, but she did verify the details.

For three years prior to her new gig, she was a deputy assistant to U.S. President Barack Obama and his deputy counsel for national security, a job the profile says

put her “squarely at the centre of law, security, and the (U.S.) government’s most sensitive military and counterterrorism operations.”

Haines is the first woman to serve as the CIA’s second-in-command.

My initial attempt to contact her about her Newfoundland connection was unsuccessful (and frustrating — my web browsers and the CIA website’s contact form wouldn’t get along). But I’ll keep trying.

My expectations aren’t very high that the CIA’s assistant director will do an interview about something personal that happened decades ago — and she’s probably (hopefully) focused on more important things — but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

It’d be an interesting story to write.

It would also be interesting to know which remote Newfoundland town took Haines and Davighi in. (My bet is St. Anthony, based on the description in the article.)

I also wonder if any of delighted residents of whatever community it was remember temporarily adopting an American couple who crash-landed.

Did they have any inkling the woman would rise to the top of the espionage world?


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