Cleared for Landing Interstate 80 – Airplanes

August 14, 2006 by  
Filed under Features

One of the things that my flight instructor stressed repeatedly was, “Land on the centerline!” and whenever I was even slightly off, she let me hear about it. I understand why – bad things can happen when an aircraft goes off the runway. Okay, but how about when you land an airplane on the Interstate? Does it make everything okay if you land on the centerline?

Somebody found out recently when he landed on Interstate 80 in Wyoming while flying a friend’s Cessna 120. When the pilot didn’t think the plane would make it over the 8,640-foot summit, he put her down in the westbound lanes of I-80 east of Laramie. The 50-year old Cessna 120 comes with an 85 HP engine. It’s easy to believe it didn’t like the altitude with the two passengers on board and whatever gear they may have had. The Highway Patrol had to escort the plane as it taxied down I-80 all the way to the airport.

I’ve often tried to imagine what it would be like to land on a road in an emergency. My instructor loved to surprise me with the dreaded simulated engine failure by unexpectedly shutting off the throttle. I always had to wonder what was going through the minds of those drivers on the Alaska Highway when they saw me suddenly headed straight for them, full flaps and closing in. Or did they even notice? The pilot in Wyoming landed in light traffic without incident. People got out of their cars to take pictures.

I can see the slideshows now, “Look at this – in Wyoming they drive airplanes on the Interstate”.

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