Plane lands safely on Golden Center Freeway |

Plane lands safely on Golden Center Freeway

John Hart, Staff Photographer
Dave Moller and Robyn Moormeister, Staff Writers

A pilot whose engine failed landed his small airplane safely on the Golden Center Freeway near the Dorsey Drive overpass at about 10:45 a.m. today, tying up traffic.

No vehicles collided with the plane and no one was injured, Officer Jeff Pingree of the California Highway Patrol said.

Pilot Rick Harmon, 45, of Grass Valley landed the plane in the eastbound lanes just beneath Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and rolled to a rest pointing uphill just several hundred yards from the overpass.

Harmon said he had just taken off from the Grass Valley airport when his engine died.

“I did everything I needed to do,” he said. “I used my training.”

He slowly approached the highway so drivers could see him coming, he said.

The drivers in both eastbound lanes ” who also happened to be pilots themselves ” slowed traffic to a stop so Harmon could land safely, Harmon said.

“It was a beautiful landing,” Harmon added.

“He did a good job,” Pingree said.

The Cessna 150 was in the eastbound lane of Highway 20/49. The outside lane of Highway 20/49 were blocked until noon as emergency response crews offloaded the Cessna’s fuel and loaded it onto a flatbed truck “to get it out of there,” Pingree said.

Kayla Olson was working at Golden Green Rentals in the Hills Flat area when she and her fellow employees heard the plane. Olson said employee Jeff Jacobsen looked up to the plane disappear behind some trees.

“It was so low he didn’t know if it was crashing or what,” Olson said.

A large crowd gathered on the overpass to watch the drama.

One of them was Kris Perez who lives in a nearby apartment . Perez said she saw the a similar occurrence at the same location years ago when another private plane landed on the freeway.

“He made it under the bridge, but the wing hit and it flipped it upside down,” Perez said. “He walked away too.”

Father and son pilots Alan Gaines and Jeff Gaines of Nevada City were flying over Grass Valley with a friend when they heard Harmon report his emergency and ask for a clear runway at the airport.

“The other pilots in the flight pattern said “Where is he? Where is he?” Alan said. “Finally someone said, ‘He’s landed on the freeway.'”

In his 39 years of flying which included a stint for Delta Air Lines, Alan has never seen a plan land on a road.

“I’ve seen a lot of aircraft go done in strange areas, but I’ve never seen one land on a freeway,” said son Jeff who flies attack helicopters for the U.S. Army and just got back from Iraq.


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