A student and a flight instructor for Sunrise Aviation of Ormond Beach, Florida, were on the Cessna 152.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A Cessna airplane on a training flight that took it from Ormond Beach to Gainesville and Williston made an emergency landing on Interstate 75 about noon Thursday with the pilot managing to get the craft down without damage to it or to vehicles on the ground.
The landing tied up northbound traffic for hours before the scene. A tow truck began moving the plane to the rest area about 2:10 p.m.
A student and a flight instructor for Sunrise Aviation of Ormond Beach were on the Cessna 152. The instructor, Michael Moore, of Volusia County, took control when engine trouble first occurred, said Sunrise Aviation General Manager Patrick Murphy.
“They were on their way back to Ormond Beach when they experienced engine problems. At the first sign, they started to divert back to Gainesville Airport. The engine roughness proceeded to be engine failure,” Murphy said. “They had already been picking out spots if they couldn’t make it to Gainesville. An interstate highway is one of the better spots to land. The pilot did an excellent job putting it down. There was no damage to the airplane or passengers. Everybody did a great job.”
The plane landed on the northbound outside lane about a half-mile south of the rest area. Two northbound lanes were blocked for several hours. Southbound traffic was initially slowed because of emergency vehicles.
Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Patrick Riordan said this was the first plane landing on I-75 that he could recall.
“I don’t know if (motorists) saw it when it was descending and got out of the way or if the pilot just picked an open area to land,” Riordan said. “Absolutely, it’s fortunate no vehicles were involved.”
Kathleen Bergen, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the agency is investigating.
Murphy said the Cessna 152 is a workhorse in flight training because of its reliability. This particular plane was built in 1982, according to the FAA registry.
Gainesville Regional Airport is a favorite destination for Sunrise training flights because the distance from Ormond fits with FAA requirements, Murphy said. Side trips to the Williston airport are not uncommon.
“We have maybe 10 airplanes a day, sometimes more, that fly from Ormond Beach to Gainesville and back. It’s pretty rare to have problems,” Murphy said. “The engine is a very reliable engine. We’re all curious to find out what happened because this doesn’t happen that often, particularly with this airplane.”
Cindy Swirko is a reporter for The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun.