There are plenty of things on the earth that could handle a plane — fields, waterways, anywhere without people — roads being a pretty close choice after an actual runway. It just so happens that one of Chicago’s busiest byways turned into a runway early Sunday morning when a pilot had to make use of Lakeshore Drive in an emergency landing situation.
For those unfamiliar with Lakeshore Drive, it’s usually a very busy stretch of freeway along Chicago’s Lake Michigan coast. Luckily enough for the pilot in question, at 6 a.m. on a Sunday there isn’t too much traffic.
There was no way the 51-year-old pilot could make it to an airport to land, reports the Chicago Sun-Times, so he just picked the best place he could after his aircraft developed mechanical problems.
“I thought the plane was going to break apart, so I just had to put it down,” he said yesterday morning as firefighters pushed his small experimental aircraft to a grassy area near a lakefront trail.
He’d been out on a pleasure cruise over the lakefront after taking off at Schaumburg Regional Airport. When the plane began shaking violently due to the plane’s stabilizer breaking loose, it was time to make a quick decision.
The pilot still had control of the plane and headed to the northbound lands of Lake Shore Drive, and tried to make it so he wouldn’t hit any cars.
“I timed the stoplights,” he explained. “There wasn’t a whole lot of traffic. I thought it was the safest place to put the plane down.”
There was just enough traffic for two vehicles to hit the plane’s wings after it landed, but both drivers drove off without stopping to see why there was a plane in their way.
It could’ve been a lot worse, that’s for sure. But despite the scare, the pilot isn’t going to quit soaring through the wild blue yonder anytime soon.
“My aviation career ends when they put me in a box in the ground,” he said.
Lombard pilot unhurt in emergency landing on Lake Shore Drive [Chicago Sun-Times]