MESA, Ariz. - It wasn't your typical rush hour commute Tuesday morning in the East Valley as the pilot of a small plane was forced to make an emergency landing on the Loop 202 freeway's eastbound lanes near Higley Road.
"The plane landed in the HOV and #1 lane with the right wing coming into contact with the median wall, and left wing striking a cement truck, traveling in the eastbound lanes, causing minor damage," Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jimmy Chavez said on May 18.
Thankfully, no one in the plane, or on the ground, was hurt.
On Arizona Department of Transportation video, you can see the disabled plane on a portion of Loop 202 in north Mesa, which turned into an emergency runway.
"Then my mechanic called and said, 'Jim, I think your airplane is on the freeway,'" said Jim Jones, the owner of the aircraft.
Jones says he loaned the plane to a friend, who is a flight instructor. The instructor and a student were on board.
"They told me it ran out of gas, and they had to land. This was the best place to land," he said.
According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the plane experienced mechanical issues after taking off from Falcon Field Airport just after 6 a.m.
"I feel so much better after finding out it's in good shape, decent shape, and that nobody's hurt.. we can replace airplanes, we can't replace lives," said Jones.
The plane was towed back to Falcon Field Airport. Aviation experts are applauding the pilot's work in landing the aircraft relatively safely.
"It seems natural they would look at a relatively unpopulated freeway as an opportunity.. a safe area to land the aircraft," said Parker Northrup of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. "Because an airplane like that would touch down and land about 75 miles per hour and it would take them about 2,000 feet to stop."
He says when in-flight emergencies happen, pilots are trained to keep the aircraft stable, then search for an open space to land.
"Aircraft intact, with no significant damage visible. In fact, the first picture I saw didn't have any emergency vehicles around the aircraft. So that gives you a sense of somebody's training worked out well."
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating what led up to this emergency landing.
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