Local News

Surprised Drivers Call 911 When Plane Lands On I-540

Posted July 13, 2006

— When drivers saw a small plane landing on Interstate 540 on Wednesday, they grabbed their cell phones and dialed 911.

Caller: "I just saw a small plane land on 540!"

911: "A plane landed on 540?"

Caller: "A plane, small plane."

Pilot Paul Hesse was on his way from Durham County to Johnston County when he lost oil pressure.

He radioed RDU International and told air traffic controllers he was going to try to make an emergency landing on the highway.

The FAA called 911 and alerted officials. Seconds later, they were flooded with calls from drivers.

Bill Klump called 911 after he saw the plane just above his pickup truck.

"I heard this noise, didn't know where it was coming from, saw the cars behind me kind of slowing down. I saw a shadow over my hood of an airplane, thought it looked kind of close. I leaned forward, saw the wheels just to the left a little bit," said Klump.

Teddy Hardy was driving eastbound on I-540 and saw the plane coming at him head-on. Then he saw the pilot, Paul Hesse, throttle up to avoid hitting Klump's truck.

"The front end of the plane went up in the air, and it was like he jumped. He just jumped the car, and then he landed," said Hardy.

Klump shifted lanes to give the plane more room to land.

"It wasn't expected, of course, at the time. You just kind of (say) 'Uh-oh' and react," said Klump.

To everyone's amazement, no one, including the pilot, was injured.

"It actually could have been a tragedy. He picked a real good spot. I have to give the pilot a lot of credit. He did everything it looked like he was supposed to do," said Klump.

"Way lucky, because there were a bunch of cars in the area," said Hardy.

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