SAN JOSE (AP) — A small plane made an emergency landing Thursday on a busy street in the heart of Silicon Valley, surprising morning commuters but touching down and stopping without injuring anyone.
The Bellanca Citabria took off from a San Jose airport just before 8 a.m., but the pilot soon notified air traffic controllers that he needed to go back, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said.
Instead, he ended up needing to use the eight-lane Capitol Expressway as a runway and successfully navigated a landing through power lines and cars before pulling over into a right-hand turn lane, San Jose police Sgt. Heather Randol said.
"It required some skill on (the pilot's) part," Randol said. "We're just thankful nobody got injured."
The fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft is owned by Amelia Reid Aviation LLC. The company operates a flight school, Aerodynamic Aviation, out of the Santa Clara County-owned Reid-Hillview Airport, according to the FAA. The plane took off from that airport.
The school's owner, Zdravko Podolski, told KGO-TV in San Francisco that a student was behind the controls of the aircraft when it experienced engine trouble at takeoff. The instructor immediately took over and landed the plane.
Podolski declined to name the instructor but described him as an experienced pilot.
"The nice thing is there are traffic lights, so there was a whole empty stretch where cars were stopped, and it was able to land just fine without getting in the way of any cars," Podolski said.
Cesar Molina of San Jose was filling up at a gas station when he saw the plane roll to an intersection and feared it might explode.
"It's a scary thing when you see a plane land near a gas station," Molina told the San Jose Mercury News (http://bit.ly/16kI5Z7 ).
The landing comes three months after a small plane landed on a dirt embankment next to a Southern California freeway, just short of the Long Beach airport. The plane avoided contact with vehicles, and the pilot walked away with minor injuries.
In August 2012, the pilot of another small plane died after crashing into a West Los Angeles neighborhood 2 miles northeast of the Santa Monica Airport. No one else was injured.
A year earlier, a pilot suffered a broken leg after crashing a small plane into the yard of a home about a block from that same airport. And the year before that, a pilot practicing touch-and-go landings at the Santa Monica airport died when his small plane slammed nose-first into a nearby golf course.