FAA investigating plane landing on freeway

Fire and emergency crews respond after a single-engine Piper aircraft made an emergency landing on the median of US 101 just south of Tennant Avenue in Morgan Hill Feb. 18.

The pilot of a single-engine aircraft whose engine began to fail above San Jose made a “split second” decision to make an emergency landing on the median of US 101 in Morgan Hill Sunday, according to authorities.

That decision by Aptos resident Wayne Wright, 62, resulted in a safe landing for the pilot and motorists on the ground.

Wright departed from Davis airfield about 10:35am Feb. 18 in a Piper PA46-310P airplane. He was on his way to the Watsonville airport when, at about 11:10am, Wright reported his aircraft lost engine power for an unknown reason, according to a press release from the California Highway Patrol. The plane was at about 6,500 feet altitude and about eight miles north of the San Martin airport when the engine began to fail.

Wright, the only occupant of the aircraft, activated his GPS in an effort to locate the nearest airport. He contacted San Jose Air Traffic Control on the radio, and informed them of his situation, according to the CHP. The pilot advised the air authorities that his view of the ground was obstructed by heavy cloud patches.

San Jose Air Traffic Control guided Wright to the San Martin airport to make an emergency landing, according to authorities.

Wright continued to attempt to restart his engine while contacting air traffic control, but was unsuccessful. His airplane was gliding with no power just below the clouds when he saw US 101 below him, according to the press release. The pilot thought he might not make it to San Martin, and advised authorities that he was going to attempt an emergency landing on the freeway.

As he descended the plane, Wright noticed southbound vehicle traffic on US 101 stopping in a cascading effect toward him, according to CHP. That’s when he decided at the last second to land his aircraft in the center median divider on US 101, just south of Tennant Avenue.

The plane landed about 11:17am with a wing extended into the left lane of northbound US 101, facing in a southbound direction, according to CHP.

No injuries or collisions resulted from the incident, according to authorities. The plane was towed to the San Martin airport, where it will be inspected.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident, according to FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.

Photos of the odd sight of an aircraft in the middle of US 101, and later being towed off the freeway onto Tennant Avenue in south Morgan Hill, spread throughout the internet in the hours after the landing.

The registered owner of the aircraft is G&M Leasing LLC, based in Watsonville.

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