The pilot of small plane flew under a footbridge and landed in traffic on southbound South Lake Shore Drive on Friday afternoon, making an emergency landing without injuring himself or anyone else, including his passenger, officials said.
The plane landed near 3800 South Lake Shore Drive a little after 3:15 p.m., after the pilot told air traffic controllers he couldn’t make it to Midway Airport and he was directed to land where he could, according to officials in a news conference at the scene. By a little before 6 p.m., officials shut down southbound Lake Shore Drive to allow the plane to be removed.
The man piloting the small plane landed it on the side of the southbound drive after it started experiencing some sort of mechanical problem, and neither he nor his female passenger was injured, said Larry Merritt, a spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department.
The man “landed on the curb of Lake Shore Drive like you would if you were parking your car in front of your house,” Merritt said.
“He flew underneath the footbridge at 35th and landed on the Lake Shore Drive southbound,” said Deputy Fire Cmsr. Bill Vogt, in the news conference.
The pilot of “an Ercoupe 415-D aircraft, which is a fixed wing, single-engine aircraft, reported an emergency to air traffic control and landed on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago,” said Elizabeth Isham Cory, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Chicago office, in an email. “The point of departure and intended destination are still being determined.”
The two were in the plane when it began to lose power and the pilot was directed by air traffic control to land on Lake Shore, according to a police media notification.
A man and woman had been flying along the shore of Lake Michigan from Wisconsin to Cleveland when they realized they were low on fuel, said Ald. Sophia King, 4th.
The plane is registered to Olson Products Inc., an insect-control product manufacturing company in Medina, Ohio, south of Cleveland, according to the FAA plane registry.
“He was losing power and he knew it. He knew he had to make an emergency landing,” King said. “He had to think quickly and decided Lake Shore Drive was probably the best bet.”
“They’re a little shaken, but literally thanking God,” King said of the two. “This is miraculous.”
Photos tweeted out by the Fire Department showed people talking to firefighters next to a small blue-and-yellow single-propeller plane.
Carl McGahee was making his daily drive northbound on Lake Shore Drive when he saw the plane coming down.
“I knew he was in trouble,” McGahee said.
Cars in the southbound lanes moved to the right as the plane came to a stop with a skid, bouncing up and down and leaving tire tracks in the far left lane.
“I just thought that he was going to come into our lane, so we all swerved and I pulled over and looked around and said, ‘Damn.’ It was a scary moment,” McGahee said as he smoked a cigar around 6 p.m. on the 35th Street pedestrian bridge, where he had returned to see what had happened.
Jeff and Patty Mann said they were riding their Divvy bikes down a lakefront bike trail when they spotted the blue-and-yellow plane parked on Lake Shore Drive.
“When was the last time you saw a plane land on Lake Shore Drive in the middle of rush hour?” Patty Mann said as they watched from the grassy shoulder nearby.
The couple, visiting Chicago from Wheaton, said they rode their bikes to the 35th Street pedestrian bridge and were some of the first to get there. Police arrived a few minutes later, and a man they spoke with said he saw the plane land on the north side of the bridge, which it coasted under.
King said she was in disbelief when her chief of staff called her to tell her a plane had landed on the highway.
“I heard him, but I said ‘What?’ ” about four or five times, before the news sunk in, King said.
Jennifer Green said she arrived at the bridge not long after the plane landed, and said it was a weird place to see a plane.
“I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime situation,” Green said. “At least I would hope so.”
The FAA and possibly the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate, Cory said.
Drivers honked at each other as some slowed down to pull out their phones and snap a picture of the now wingless plane as it was secured onto a flatbed with its wings laid under the fuselage.
Nearly four hours after the plane had first touched down, it continued its journey south as it was carted away.
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