Flying down the New Jersey Turnpike - plane landings on highways common

February 1, 2010

The New Jersey Turnpike made the news all over the world today apparently - thanks to a traffic reporter's forced landing in his light plane about 6:45 this morning in the northbound lanes of the Turnpike in the south Jersey suburbs of the Philadelphia metro area. The plane a Cessna 152 is powered by a 4-cylinder automobile-like engine. The pilot was forced to make an emergency landing by an oil leak, the engine overheating and running in an uneven "sputtering" fashion.

The Philadelphia Inquirer quotes the pilot Frank Vogt as saying he first thought of ladning in a field but it wasn't light enough to make out a safe flat area, whereas the Turnpike was lit up. At about 400ft (120m) he radioed the air traffic controller that he was going to land on the Turnpike:

"He found a clear swath of road - no cars behind him, none in front of him - and lined the plane up with the flow of traffic. He glided in for a soft landing, he said. He let the plane coast rather than hitting the brakes, then eased the Cessna to the shoulder."

No one was hurt and no damage was done to the plane or any vehicle on the Turnpike.

The plane was towed up the Turnpike in the right lane and shoulder with motorists driving past in the left lane as this was nothing special. It was later hauled up on a regular tilting flatbed truck used to carry disabled cars (see below).

It was then parked in a Turnpike maintenance area.

There were some traffic backups from the police and tow truck activity.

The Turnpike here - a couple of miles south of Exit 4 near NJ73 in the Cherry Hill area - is not the Turnpike of the northern half and 12 or 14 lanes.

The landing occurred in the most lightly trafficked stretch with a basic a 2+2 lane expressway format.

Almost within sight alongside of the Turnpike for many miles here is the parallel, free I-295 (3+3 lanes) which gets most of the heavy local traffic.

The pilot had about 13.7m (45ft) of asphalt pavement to aim for (two travel lanes, plus hard shoulders both sides).

A Cessna 152 - a model of which nearly 8,000 were manufactured 1977 to 1985 - has a wingspan of 10.2m (33.4ft) so it can land comfortably in one direction of traffic.

Speed not that different from traffic speed

The plane cruises at 107 knots (126mph, 200km/hr) and has a stall speed of 43knots (49mph, 79km/hr) so it lands at around the posted speed limit on the Turnpike here - 65mph (105km/hr).

Major hazards for the landing plane, apart from vehicles, would be overhead electric power lines and sign gantries.

About the size of a motor vehicle

The Cessna 152 is a two seater (pilot + passenger) about the length nose to tail of a big pickup - 7.3m (24ft). It is all aluminum construction and lighter than any car at 490kg (1081pd) empty.

Fuel, the pilot and the passenger are not supposed to take its gross weight over 757kg (1670pd).

It is powered by a Lycoming O-235 gasoline spark ignition piston engine of two pairs of horizontally opposed ('boxer') pistons and it produces in the range 100 to 135HP (75 to 101KW) - when running properly.

It happens regularly

Our researches - which consisted of putting the words 'airplane.' 'landing,' 'highway' into the Google search box - indicate that aircraft in trouble quite regularly make emergency landings on highways.

Also today a small single engine plane landed on US1 in Florida four miles short of St Augustine airport after a fuel leak caused him to run out of fuel.


August last year a Piper Comanche 260 carrying a couple landed on US101 outside Santa Barbara California.

The engine's plane quit as the pilot switched fuel lines as he prepared for his descent to the airport. 

The plane and a vehicle on the US101 expressway collided and a motorist was suffered minor injuries.

Google throws up dozens of incidents of planes making forced landings on highways.

TOLLROADSnews 2010-02-01

ADDITION 2010-02-02 10:00

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