PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) — The pilot of a single-engine airplane made an emergency landing on Interstate 10 in south Mississippi's Jackson County on Monday, safely bringing the plane down and guiding it off the highway as traffic behind him slowed to make room.
It happened around 12:30 p.m. near Biloxi. The pilot, Rodney McKnight Jr., 24, of Auburn, Alabama, told Gulf Coast news outlets that he lost power at 3,500 feet as he was approaching the Gulfport-Biloxi airport. He and a friend had left Auburn, planning to spend Memorial Day in Gulfport.
He said he first turned the plane back toward Alabama, but decided he didn't have the altitude to glide back to Mobile.
He informed air traffic controllers.
"I said, 'Hey, Gulfport, I don't think I'm going to make Mobile. I'm going to put this thing down on the road," McKnight said.
Mississippi Highway Patrol Capt. Johnny Poulos told The Associated Press there were no injuries and all lanes remained open, although traffic was slowed by people taking a look at the plane.
The landing happened between the heavily traveled D'Iberville and Ocean Springs exits. Poulos said troopers were directing traffic and awaiting Federal Aviation Administration officials. A message left with an FAA regional office was not immediately returned Monday.
A motorist, Sarah Washburn, told WLOX-TV (http://bit.ly/1RGDJhC) that the pilot was able to signal to drivers that he needed to land.
"He started going up and down, up and down like I need to land instead of flipping back around and turning around. So it kind of gave all of us a heads up to all us cars, and we all started putting on our brakes," Washburn recalled.
"So then he kind of landed about five cars in front of us, and we're all still going like 20-30 miles per hour. Everybody put their hazard lights on and slowed down to almost his speed when he hit the highway blacktop and bounced a little bit, and then headed off to the right of the shoulder. Just landed that thing just perfect... I was pretty proud of him."
McKnight told The Sun-Herald (http://bit.ly/1RGDhQF) that he and his passenger, Jim Callahan, had intended to spend Memorial Day in Gulfport and have lunch with Callahan's cousin. By mid-afternoon, McKnight and Callahan were waiting in the shade of the plane's wings, in the grass next to the highway, waiting for the cousin they were supposed to have lunch with to bring them a trailer for the plane.
The two work at companies out of the Auburn University Regional Airport -- Callahan with Callahan Aircraft Services and McKnight with an associate company.