Local News

I-540 Serves As Temporary Aircraft Runway For Emergency Landing

Posted July 13, 2006

— A pilot landed his single-engine Cessna on Interstate 540 on Wednesday after experiencing engine trouble, earning praise from a state trooper for a safe emergency landing.

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    "He has to be commended for his ability to fly," North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Hans Ellefson said of pilot Paul Hesse. "He got it in safely. He was aware of his surroundings. He checked the other traffic that was on the roadway already, selected a spot. (It was) nothing short of calm cool and collected."

    Hesse, 55, of Oxford, was the only person aboard the Cessna 152, and neither he nor anyone on the ground was injured when he landed around noon. An instructor at Durham-based Empire Aviation, Hesse said he was forced to land in the westbound lanes between Six Forks Road and Creedmoor Road to due to a lack of oil pressure.

    "We tried to get the aircraft to Raleigh, but it just wasn't going to go, just didn't make it," Hesse told WRAL. "The only option when the single-engine Cessna ceased was to turn the highway into a runway."

    Ellefson said that as soon as the highway was clear, Hesse got on the road, sliding in like automotive vehicles would normally do.

    "I just tried to hop over the highway signs and under the power lines and kept on going and slid over," Hesse said. "I was really more concerned about the people driving down below. I was really more concerned about them than myself."

    The plane was resting on the shoulder of the roadway Wednesday afternoon, forcing police to temporarily close one lane of traffic on the highway that encircles part of Raleigh.

    Hesse was flying from Durham County to Johnston County, said Jill Denning, a spokeswoman with Raleigh-Durham International Airport. A tow truck later pulled the aircraft to the airport for repairs.

    "He did everything right," Ellefson said. "He's still here to talk about it."

    A preliminary investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration showed the engine failure was caused by a problem with the oil-cooling system, Hesse said.

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