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Piper Comanche Emergency Landing on I-595 Highway

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A private pilot said he had "no choice" but to land his single-engine aircraft in the westbound lanes of Interstate 595 during Thursday morning's rush hour. (www.sun-sentinel.com) More...

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LoralThomas
Loral Thomas 8
The pilot was coming in to land at FLL when tower refused to let him land saying an Airbus needed the runway immediately???. Something very fishy here. He flew around for awhile, running out of gas. Guess he doesn't know how to declare an emergency.
djeanis
Dirk Jeanis 1
Years ago I was flying at night and sucked a valve. I was descending at about 150 fpm if I remember. Judging the distance to the airport I decided to land there instead of finding an alternative at night (there were two possibilities, neither had any lighting). (I came in high, heavy S turns and slipping to the runway to keep what little excess altitude I had at approach)

Well, the tower was still open at my destination so when I got closer, I declared an emergency. I can tell you this, it was NOT taken lightly at all. The tower sent a ground truck and was asking on ground freq if the truck could hear any problem. He said no he could hear nothing wrong. I shut down at the pumps and threw the keys to the ground truck, told him to start the engine (adrenaline rushing). It would not start at all. In fact later I was called to the tower along with my buddy who was a pilot also. We were REAMED for over an hour, specifically told that mayday is a word that should never, ever be used. We were told that letting the tower know we only had one chance would have been sufficient and would have saved him tens of hours of reports.

Once I was directed to over 15000 feet for over 30 minutes without oxygen on an IFR flight. A negative to ATC with explanation of no O2, caused a response that " if you value your license you will climb to and maintain XX,000 ft until further notice. IN other words, not only was I ordered to violate FAR's but told I would lose my license if I did not do so. Frankly I should have demanded re-route and told the asshole he could go to hell. I was PIC and should never have listened to him! This was MY responsibility, and dehydration and fuzziness followed because I didn't tell him to screw off. (BTW never open a can of soda at that altitude without pressurization if you value your instruments)

Now, Part of the problem was this particular pilot. When we take to the air, we are PILOTS IN COMMAND. We have the same power as ship captains at sea, truly KINGS in command. We have a duty and responsibility to safely maneuver, take off, and land especially without endangering those on the ground. It is always good to KNOW the FARS and to use them to negate illegal or dangerous orders from ATC, including being TOLD TO WAIT.

Knowing what I know today, I would have asked ATC if they wanted me to land on a freeway or land at the airport. If they told me to wait after that I would use the M(ayday) word and tell them I am landing.

Regarding fuel, I know it isn't supposed to happen but in modern engines with electronic controls, or an engine/intake/fuel system that has some problem appear, it is possible that fuel usage can change well over 10%. On the length of flight that could actually burn your entire reserve easily. I do agree that in such a circumstance the pilot should have known he low and stopped for fuel earlier, but..that requires having VERY precise fuel indicators as well.

I say that the problem started with the pilot, and was accentuated by the tower, and finally that the pilot failed to declare his intention to land and declare an emergency if necessary. Never be afraid to declare, it is your right and an option that is safer than any other. Be prepare to be ostracized for doing it, but at least you can have a good stiff drink to calm your heart rate later.
mcurvin
mcurvin 1
I always interesting when someone has a few beers and logs into FA. Pilot especially. Lol.
skeehner
Sean Keehner 8
I understand that emergencies do occur, however,if the cause of the emergency landing was fuel exhaustion and if he was holding for an Airbus to land, he was still beyond his reserves. Fuel supply should never be an issue. Especially if he was the new owner & not completely understanding the fuel burn, always error on the side of caution and carry more fuel. Thank God he landed how he did, it could have been a casualty for him & others who had no idea what was about to happen on that road. If it was a fuel issue such as clogged filters or water in the fuel or another mechanical issue, then the outcome of his decision making should be different. Let's not pass judgement too early, but lack of fuel is not the best excuse!
srichmond
He was vectored north north, and back around to VLL for over 45 minutes.
data4unme
Appropriations for the Network of the Interstate Highways was sold on building and designing them also for landing an Aircraft in the event of an emergency. How quick we forget.
paviation07
sam kuminecz 3
every 5 miles on the Interstate is straight enough to land an aircraft
blackstock
Per: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/interstate/faq.cfm#question30

Is it true that one out of five miles is straight so airplanes can land on the Interstates?

No. This is a myth that is so widespread that it is difficult to dispel. Usually, the myth says the requirement came from President Dwight D. Eisenhower or the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. However, no legislation, regulation, or policy has ever imposed such a requirement. Airplanes do sometimes land on Interstates in an emergency, but the highways are not designed for that purpose.
davysims
David Sims 2
I wonder if the issue was not a complete lack of fuel, but improper fuel tank management. That particular model of Comanche has 4 separate tanks, two mains and two aux tanks. Given he only owned the aircraft for a couple of weeks, perhaps he was not entirely familar with the fuel system and selector switch, or not paying attention.
fllkap1
The plane is still there. I saw it on the way home this evening. Word is they are waiting for him to have it dismantled.
Why not a tow truck or flatbed with oversize permits? It's being guarded 24 hr by police.
For the safety of the motorist, aircraft or are they afraid he will add fuel and fly it off? Plenty of room for that!
patpylot
patrick baker 3
hate to be harsh here, but there are other airports close by suitable for making a safe landing. Running out of fuel is a major no-no, and there is no good excuse for it that I have ever heard. You can always tanker extra fuel. Good news he didn't total the aircraft, for commanche is a splendid aircraft. He is not a splendid pilot. One hefty bill for removal of the aircraft will soon be his to pay. Wonder how much of a bill he is looking at here.Aren't there three runways e/w at FLL ? any one would do.
WtfWtf
WtfWtf 2
What is with these idiots and not checking the tanks? I sure hope there was a leak or something.
djeanis
Dirk Jeanis 1
I bet the controller is going to catch HELL (and he SHOULD). The $$$finances of an airbus waiting was what caused this, nothing else matters.
Fuel exhaustion can happen for MANY reasons, not necessarily because one did not have the proper reserves according to the book. That is part of the reason we have reserves! I do agree that tank valve positions are more likely in this case, the pilot being new to the AC. I am sure the investigation will make a report. Also, did this pilot have a sport license or a pilots license? I would be interested to know.

Pilot error caused by air traffic control. Remember it is ALWAYS pilot error. Saying NO to the tower was warranted and his right. I know, you will pay a price, but there you have it, he is paying a different price now.
cdierking44
Why even talk to the media in the first place... That would be my rule number one regardless of how tempting it is to explain your situation.
allfive
don schaefer 1
Makes me think a breathalyzer was in order.
flyfishmcd
That's just strange there how ATC did not give him priority over the Airbus aircraft behind him if they knew his emergency. There was some huge mistake here.
paviation07
sam kuminecz 1
I'm not sure of the details but if he did declare an emergency he would have gotten priority...if he just says he's low on fuel and doesn't declare...he's stuck in the pattern at the controllers discression
Taurcan
I don't know that stretch of highway,but from photos, it looks to me as if he landed in a stretch of highway where cars were prohibited from driving.He landed on a chevron painted strip that seems to be painted to delineate between a diverging off ramp and 2 through lanes. Irrespective of potential pilot error here, was the car in a place where it didn'belong?
Does a painted strip with such chevrons permit a car from crossing it and exiting? Perhaps the car crossed that strip in front of the plane unexpectedly, just as the plane was at the stall point, just before touchdown at a minimal speed approach.
paviation07
sam kuminecz 1
looks like a part of the highway where there is a merge or ramp...see a lot of those "chevrons" up here on the NYS thruway
upchucked
Owned the plane for two weeks, claims he was surprised when it ran out of gas......upset when someone told him to learn to fly, forgetting that running out of fuel is the fault of only one person, the pilot...listening to the tape, he seems to think this was all one big joke.. hope the FAA takes his little ticket and shreds it.
WtfWtf
WtfWtf 3
He did a hell of job putting it down apparently, so his flying skills aren't the problem. It sounds to me like he just needs some training on decision making, judgment calls, preflight action, USING A TIMER, perhaps leaning the mixture. Sadly our fight training system isn't all that great. The blind leading the blind most often. Most instructors are young, exhausted, BROKE, and just there to build hours. If you find otherwise, HOLD ONTO THEM. The FAA doesn't need to take anyone's ticket here. Let's not send him the the lions just yet.
allench1
allench1 4
judgement this early and your statement at the end is very immature to say the least. I see now why so many real true hard pilots of many different flight profiles are no longer leaving comments with flight aware. My last as well
dtw757
mike SUT 5
Here's an early judgement from a 23,000 hour incident/accident free former US Navy/ Commercial Airline Pilot....if you don't have enough fuel to switch from the left runway to the right and are running on fumes before you turn final...you're a dangerous pilot. Before departure, you fuel plan, during flight you constantly fuel monitor with those little indicators called fuel quantity indicators, and if things look critical, you divert. It's not like there are aren't a thousand little airports in Florida where he could have dropped into to put more fuel on to reach his destination. His whole "treating the whole thing as a joke" attitude speaks volumes of the "quality" of the flying skills including the decision making skills that this guy lacks. HE is the reason that general aviation gets the black eye it gets. Piss Poor Planning results in Piss Poor Performance. He tried to stretch it and failed. I laughed at the reporter who said "how lucky do you feel to be alive" at first but now realize, he might have been chastizing him on air for his stupidity.
allench1
allench1 -2
Should have known a navy jockey as for me smart ass, F4 pilot with 1600 lbs of bombs aim 7 aim 9 that Stayed on target 8% of the time being pushed by a couple of J79's never getting drawn into a wheel for the USMC. Take a bite at that! From a 70 + pilot whom also racked up many more time than u bragged about I did not need to include to bluster my insecurity.
dtw757
mike SUT 1
ouch...never suffered from insecurity, thanks Doc for the diagnosis. The guy was still a lousy pilot....I'm sure you survived to "Bluster and Brag" yourself by making sure you had the gas to complete the mission, unlike this chump. But then again, with all the "There I was stories" you've probably told over the years, you probably provided your own lift with your hot air and hand movements. Thanks for your service, you're welcome for mine. :-)
allench1
allench1 1
come on mike have a little respect for the USMC, we had to be there to show the blue's how to land on the big "E". :-) I appreciate all those who have served, oh BTW your comments were harsh this early on, just my thoughts. With whom do you fly for now and are you in Florida?
dtw757
mike SUT 1
Not Florida..Pacific Northwest....Delta (via Northwest Airlines) And having had the honor of calling (Then) Major John Ripley a friend, I have ALL the respect in the world for the USMC. Now who's insecure? :-) Sorry we can't get together and swap some of those stories that would have Granpaw Pettibone saying "Jumpin' Jehosaphat, what were these young bucks thinking?" Just retired myself...diabetes...who'd a guessed that would do it.
allench1
allench1 2
same for me open heart then diabetes II. 727-757 what a bird those were -747 back to my own 421. After all the fun mike I wish you the best, may you always have altitude under you and speed in front of you.
dtw757
mike SUT 1
Same to you.. I flew everything NWA had except the DC-9s we got from from Republic. '57 was my favorite..330 was my least favorite. No 421 on my ramp, have to stick with R/C stuff for aviation entertainment.
allench1
allench1 1
Sorry to hear that but at least u r still flying plus no idiots on the com. Lol
srichmond
Ignorance is bliss, eh cwesley
greenbaron
greenbaron 1
I saw him on video and I have to agree with you, with the exception of your last statement. He was acting very cavalier about it, and very proud of himself, and he clearly seemed to be blaming the tower for calling him off due to an Airbus coming in, which is idiotic! Listening to him, giddy and babbling for the camera, he didn't sound like any pilot I would want to know or encounter while flying. I hope the FAA looks at him and sanctions accordingly. He could have killed someone, but seemed most upset about the fact that someone hollered at him while driving by saying he should learn to fly. He just could . not . believe . that ! Dude completely missed the point on all levels, and there's nobody better to point that out to him than the FAA.
paviation07
sam kuminecz 1
any landing you walk away from is a good landing, better to be above the dirt than under it
ilikerio
ilikerio 0
Registration N8856P
ilikerio
ilikerio 1
Sun Sentinel pictures here
http://flightaware.com/photos/aircraft/N8856P

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