Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Cessna 172RG Cutlass, N9553B, Flight Safety Alaska Inc: Aircraft force landed on a road near Merrill Field Airport (PAMR), Anchorage, Alaska


A Cessna 172 Cutlass made an emergency landing Tuesday afternoon on a major thoroughfare in Anchorage due to engine failure after takeoff. The plane lost the power needed to land at a nearby military airstrip, so a break in traffic on the roadway was the best option.  

The red-and-white Cessna made a rough landing in the middle of Boniface Parkway near Perry Drive, touching down on a snowed-over median just after 1 p.m. The impact shoved snow into its nose-wheel compartment and appeared to have bent the landing gear.

The plane departed nearby Merrill Field around 1 o'clock with three people aboard. The pilot reported losing power after taking off, said Anchorage Police Lt. Mark Thelen.

“They were in the area that’s right over by the police station, right by the Campbell Airstrip area, and they thought they’d try to set it down there,” Thelen said. “But there were too many trees, so they elected at that point to follow Boniface” up to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson for an emergency landing.

The pilot -- a flight instructor at Land & Sea Aviation Alaska according to Arthur Racicot, a mechanic for the company who was aboard the plane -- saw the break in traffic and decided to land, Thelen said.

“It was the best decision they could’ve made,” the lieutenant said.

No one was injured during the landing, and the plane struck no vehicles on its way to a stop.
NTSB: Accident label may not apply

The crash closed traffic on Boniface for a short time, but police opened up one lane in both directions quickly. The plane’s three occupants appeared in good spirits as they waited for aviation officials to arrive, first the Federal Aviation Administration, which declined to comment, and next a National Transportation Safety Board investigator. Racicot helped dig out snow from around the plane before it was reeled onto a flatbed and strapped down. The tricky process took nearly an hour.

NTSB investigator Chris Shaver said he was unsure if the plane’s emergency landing warranted an accident classification. In order for the agency to call the landing an accident, the plane has to have substantial damage, “Enough to where it’s structurally unsound or its flight characteristics are affected,” he said.

The damage appeared minimal at a glance, Shaver said. And the landing gear and engine are excluded from what constitutes substantial damage.

“Those won’t count toward whether or not we look it at as an accident,” he said. “Once we get it back to the hangar and start to take things apart, we’ll begin to see the insides and whether anything is bent or tweaked. This will likely go down as just an incident.”


Photos Courtesy/Credit:  Loren Holmes and Alan Erickson

Photos Courtesy/Credit:  Loren Holmes and Alan Erickson

Photos Courtesy/Credit:  Loren Holmes and Alan Erickson

Photos Courtesy/Credit:  Loren Holmes and Alan Erickson

Photos Courtesy/Credit:  Loren Holmes and Alan Erickson

Photos Courtesy/Credit:  Loren Holmes and Alan Erickson

Photos Courtesy/Credit:  Loren Holmes and Alan Erickson

The pilot of a small plane made a successful emergency landing on an East Anchorage street, and neither he nor two passengers were injured, police and fire officials said.  

 The red-and-white Cessna 172 Cutlass landed in a snowy median, without hitting any vehicles, on Boniface Parkway near Perry Drive a little after 1 p.m. After the landing, the pilot and passengers stepped out, and the single-engine plane could be seen resting in the middle of Boniface as vehicles drove past on each side.

The two lanes of traffic closest to the plane on the four-lane street were soon closed. Later,

Police Lt. Mark Thelen said the pilot reported losing power after taking off from Merrill Field. The plan, at that point, was to attempt a landing at Campbell Airstrip, but the pilot saw too many trees and instead turned toward the runways at Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson, Thelen said.

He apparently noticed a break in traffic on Boniface and decided to put the plane down there, Thelen said.

"Obviously we don't have airplanes landing on the road very often," Thelen said.

Meredith Hazen, who was driving on Boniface at the time, recounted what happened next.

"I noticed it coming over the top of my car, from the back side," Hazen said. "It took me a second to realize, 'He's not flying that low on purpose.' I could see the belly of the plane out my windshield."

Hazen said the plane went straight down the middle of Boniface.

"I could see the left wing hit the ground, and the second car in front of me, I think, hit his brakes really hard. He went up on the snow in the barrier, because he didn't want to hit the wing," Hazen said.

Several drivers, including Hazen, pulled over to see if the plane's occupants were alright. Police officers and firefighters were at the crash site within minutes, she said, and it appeared as if the pilot had already radioed for help while still in the air.

Seeing the plane come down worried her, said Hazen, who works for commercial aviators Ravn Alaska, formerly Era Alaska.

"It was pretty scary," she said. "It was a smaller plane, and I know those smaller planes aren't as sturdy."

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