It has been an unusual week for the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Officers responded to two separate incidents involving small planes landing on a busy freeway in the southern part of the state. Both pilots walked away from their respective aircrafts without causing or sustaining injuries.
The first incident was filmed by a quick-thinking, smartphone-wielding motorist traveling westbound on Interstate 8 in the San Diego area (warning: the video above contains NSFW language). Footage shows traffic moving at a relatively normal pace until a small, single-engined Piper Cherokee airplane appeared from the sky and aimed for a gap in between moving cars.
We can think of a million reasons why a situation like this would end in a fiery — and potentially deadly — way, but it didn’t. 25-year-old pilot Ryan Muno safely brought the plane down in traffic and came to a full stop without hitting anything or anyone. Though evidently broken, the plane is intact and could theoretically fly again once repaired.
“The instructor took over the controls of the plane. He stated he knew they weren’t going to make it to the airport, so his next course of action was to take it down the interstate,” CHP officer Travis Gallows told ABC 10 News. “For them to make that landing, and have nobody else involved in it, it’s pretty much a miracle,” he added.
The second incident took place in the Los Angeles area on October 23, and this time the landing wasn’t as smooth. The pilot, 43-year-old Robert Sandberg, was participating in a training exercise in a North American AT-6 made in the 1940s. The plane wore the livery of the German Air Force but it was American-owned and operated. According to ABC 7, Sandberg experienced an unspecified engine problem shortly after leaving the Van Nuys Airport.
“I picked a spot on the freeway, where I knew there was a big section of cars that weren’t there, but the engine completely failed. Fortunately, I was able to not hurt anybody – other than the airplane,” the pilot told ABC 7 shortly after the accident. He landed on the 101 freeway but couldn’t stop and ended up crashing into the center median. Motorists who witnessed the crash helped Sandberg escape the wreckage before the small, single-engine plane burned to the ground, leaving only the wings and the nose. CHP shut down the freeway in both directions to let crews clean up 90 gallons of jet fuel from the roadway and take what was left of the plane to a hangar so that investigators can determine the cause of the crash.
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