Those driving on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago early Sunday morning were in for a shock when a pilot navigated and landed his small plane on the popular street after a mid-air malfunction forced the plane down.
The 51-year-old man flying the plane took off early Sunday morning from Schaumburg Regional Airport to fly over the lake front. At some point during the trip, an elevator broke free from the plane and the plane began to shake violently. The elevator is a part of the plane’s stabilizer and it enables the tail to move as necessary to keep the plane level. The pilot, a resident of Lombard, thought the entire plane may break apart and he knew that he needed to make an emergency landing. After radioing to Midway Airport, he knew that he was unable to keep the plane aloft long enough to make it to either Midway or O’Hare Airport and therefore made the decision to bring down the plane at some spot other than an airport.
As he was near the waterfront, the man decided that Lake Shore Drive presented the best option for an emergency landing. As he lowered his plane, he took note of the traffic lights on Lake Shore so that he could touch down while lights were red, thus not posing a danger to moving traffic. At shortly after 6:00 a.m., the plane landed in the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive in the area of Jackson Street.
After the light turned red, two cars struck one of the plane’s wings but both vehicles left the scene. There were no other collisions and it is believed that no one in either car was hurt. The pilot as well as police and emergency responders were quick to note that the incident could have ended much differently and could have turned deadly in a moment if the pilot had not been able to land safely.
The plane, a two seat RANS S-6 Coyote II, is approximately 10 years old and recently passed an annual inspection. There was no indication of a problem with the stabilizer before the flight and the pilot said it was the first time an incident like this has occurred while he was flying. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident but at this time, it appears that the emergency was caused by the mechanical failure and that the pilot will not be ticketed as a result of the flight.