‘There was panic’: Woman describes driving behind plane as it landed on interstate

National / World

LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. (WDAF) – A freeway became a runway Tuesday afternoon when a pilot made an emergency landing on Interstate 470 in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

The pilot landed the Beechcraft Bonanza twin-engine plane on the curving stretch of the highway in between bridges with buildings all around. The surreal sight shocked onlookers along I-470.

But imagine if you were behind the wheel when it was happening in front of you.

Video provided by Nate Frazier shows exactly what he and another driver, Terri Thompson, witnessed as they headed eastbound on I-470.

“I was driving and I was like, ‘He’s too low. He’s not going to clear Colbern,’” Thompson said.

But when Thompson realized the plane was actually landing on the highway, she wasn’t sure what to do.

“It was crazy. It was surreal, and there was panic. Like, is he going to crash? Is he going to land? And if he crashes, is there going to be fire and debris? How quickly can I stop and not get run into the back?” Thompson said.

She slowed and pulled to the right, and the pilot managed to stop just short of the Colbern Road bridge in front of him. 

“The propellers stop, and the pilot steps out on the wing and gives the thumbs up and everyone is like, ‘Yay he’s OK,’” she said clapping.

As the Missouri State Highway Patrol arrived, the pilot told them the plane suffered an engine failure.

Flight records show he was only in the air for three minutes after taking off from the nearby Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport he was attempting to circle back to.

“It absolutely worked out, just short of a miracle I would say,” Sgt. Andy Bell said of the plane’s emergency landing flanked by a car dealership on one side of the highway and a pair of churches on the side nearest to him. 

The pilot was fine, but his plane was blocking the interstate, so they used a pickup truck to tow it back to the airport.

They had to cut a hole in the fence just to get it back to the hangar for the FAA to investigate the engine failure and talk to the pilot about his split-second decisions.

But ask the woman who was driving behind him and she’ll tell you he’s a hero.

“That pilot was really quite brilliant. He landed that plane on a curving highway and stopped about 100 feet short of a bridge he would never made it under. No one got hurt, it was incredible,” Thompson said.

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