BROWNSVILLE (KDKA) — A small plane made a flawless emergency landing in the southbound lanes of a busy Washington County highway this morning.
The pilot made a clean landing on the Mon-Fayette Expressway with no injuries to himself, his passenger or anyone on the road.
“I just put it down like we were on the runway, and pulled off,” said Brian Nicholson, the pilot.
Nicholson was calm this afternoon, but earlier in the day he and passenger John Armel had some tense moments in the sky. They were flying in a 1946 Stinson when about 10 minutes into their flight from Rostraver to Waynesburg, they realized they had a problem.
“There was a vibration. The engine, it was shaking. The engine was vibrating. We knew something was out of balance,” said Armel.
The problem was a small chunk that had broken off of the propeller, but the two experienced pilots didn’t panic. They radioed emergency dispatch and found a place to land on Route 43 in Washington County.
“I was nervous,” said Nicholson. “I knew I had no power, so every move I had to make was going to be the only move I was going to make, so they had to be right the first time.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to see more photos from the scene.
With no time to stop traffic, Nicholson dodged a highway sign, slipped under some electrical wires and Armel kept his eyes no an overpass in front of them.
“We’ve got to put this thing down, cause I’m watch this bridge approaching at about 100 knots, and he says, ‘I can’t, there’s a truck under us,’” said Armel.
Nicholson eventually put 1946 Stinson down on Route 43 near the Brownsville exit.
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The landing was a smooth one, at least as smooth as it could be using a busy highway for a runway.
“My hats off to Brian, he did an awesome job putting the plane on the ground,” Armel said.
No one was injured in plane or on ground.
Nicholson and Armel are both teachers in the Brownsville School District and know they have a great story to tell when they get back in the classroom.
“Something different,” said Nicholson. “Everybody will say, ‘What did you do over the summer?’ And now we have a unique story to tell.”
They wanted to fix the propeller and fly back to the airport, but the state police and the FAA required the plane be towed to a maintenance facility for repair and inspection.