Highway 45 in Mississippi became a landing strip for one pilot on Friday afternoon as he set down his vintage plane right on the road after it experienced engine difficulties. Miraculously, the pilot walked away completely unharmed and no one on the ground was injured either.
The plane landed on the northbound side of the highway at about 3:15 p.m. local time. The plane had left Meridian Aviation’s Key Field and was headed toward Gulf Shores, Alabama, for a weekend getaway, the pilot said.
“Happy to be here. Happy to be in one piece,” pilot Boyd Williams told Meridian, Mississippi, ABC affiliate WTOK. “Thankful nobody on the road was hurt. Thankful that both of my children came here and we’re sharing another day together.”
Williams could be seen hugging his children on video filmed by local Facebook news group Clarke County Hot Topics.
“All we know is that the pilot had engine problems,” Clarke County Sheriff Todd Kemp told Clarke County Hot Topics. “He left Key Field a little bit ago, fuel tanks were full, he had acquired some type of engine problem while in the air and he had to set it down here on the highway. He was trying to get into the main roadway, but I think he had some difficulty and he had to get on the shoulder and it tore the landing gear out from under the plane. He’s very lucky we didn’t have any other major incident here. Glad he wasn’t hurt.”
Highway 45 was filled with cars heading toward the beach on a Friday afternoon when Williams’ Navion A single-engine plane, built in 1946, lost power.
“I called to turn around and tell them it was running rough and seconds later it stopped completely,” Williams said. “I was trying to bleed off air speed to let them pass and I had to take the side of the road instead and avoid any cars coming in.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a statement saying it would investigate.
Williams’ daughter works for Meridian Aviation and heard the radio crackle on with news that the plane had lost its engine. She and her other sister immediately rushed to the location of the accident, fearing the worst.
“I heard them radio up … and I knew my dad just took off; I just said bye to him a few minutes before,” Williams’ daughter, Hannah, told WTOK. “I was crying, I felt sick to my stomach, but I just was praying, we were all praying that he was OK. When I got here and I found out that he was OK, that was just the best feeling in the world. It went from the worst feeling in the world to the best feeling in the world.”
Highway 45 was briefly closed and later one lane was opened as authorities came and hauled off the damaged plane — its landing gear ripped off and propeller bent — on a flatbed truck.