Highway drivers yielded for plane's emergency landing in New London Sunday
NEW LONDON — The pilot of a small plane that landed in the middle of the northbound lane of Interstate 89 Sunday made an obvious choice to land on the highway, one that most pilots would make with their engine failing, according to his co-pilot.
But Karl Kloeppel said he and pilot John Principe were fortunate that the highway was not busy, that cars yielded to the landing plane, and that State Trooper Peter Hurkett was parked in a nearby median.
"It was a simple decision for us, but we also had a bit of luck involved," said Kloeppel, the co-manager of Parlin Field Airport, the place where the plane is housed and owned by Parlin Skyes LLC.
Kloeppel, 66, of Newport said he and Principe, 65, of Washington are veteran pilots who were out for a Sunday flight in the airport's plane. They had taken off from Parlin Field in Newport and were headed back there, he said.
"We have to keep sharp in our skills, we were practicing some maneuvers," he said.
As they flew over the New London area, the plane started losing power, and they needed a place to land quickly.
"For me, I travel through New London all the time, and the highway wasn't too busy and there was a trooper parked right there, so when the plane started losing power, it was an obvious thing to do," Kloeppel said.
"All pilots train for this kind of scenario all the time," he said. "It was nice that the drivers cooperated so well, too, of course."
According to State Police Sgt. William Graham, the plane landed at about 5 p.m. in the area of mile marker 34.2 near Exit 12. After landing and braking on a short strip of the road, Principe pulled the plane into the breakdown lane, and Hurkett assisted from there.
"The drivers on the highway, both before (the plane) landed and after, seemed to know what was going on and did a good job avoiding them as they landed," Graham said. "That highway isn't that busy at that time of day. Had this happened on I-93 in Concord, we might be looking at a different story."
There were no injuries, nor were there any lengthy traffic tie-ups because the plane was pulled off the road, Graham said. The plane, a Cessna Skyhawk, remained in the breakdown lane for about two hours, he said, and then was taken apart and trucked back to the Newport airport.
"It was really not much of an incident," Graham said.
"It was a routine landing on a highway, for me it was simple," Kloeppel said.