How to land an aircraft on a road

Sylvia, the blogger behind the Fear of Landing blog, has noted an interesting article by Tom Vanderbilt that appeared in Slate Magazine back in March about aircraft landings on highways (Sylvia has also found and posted several videos of such landings in her post). Apparently, they are much more frequent that one would think. In fact, Vanderbilt noted that:

There are no hard numbers on annual occurrences of airplane landings on highways or streets, but a troll through the Federal Aviation Administration’s incident database shows that there tend to be more than a dozen such events in any given year (that the FAA knows about, at least). The events range in nature and geography. Mechanical difficulty ranks prominently in the causative universe. But pilots running out of fuel (“fuel starvation,” as investigators put it), whether owing to unforeseen flight complications or actual negligence, is common, too. One FAA report dryly refers to a plane that “landed on a public street to discharge a passenger.” And emergency landings can take place on deserted country roads, residential neighborhoods, or bustling thoroughfares.

Vanderbilt also noted that the physical resemblance between roads and runways can also lead to pilots mistaking the former for the later – especially in night time or poor weather conditions. However, he also quoted the author of Handling In-Flight Emergencies as saying that while roads may look inviting, they can contain traps such as power lines, traffic signs, overpasses and embankments.

Hence, readers may also want to check out a website called Emergency Runaways that reader Caig Maiman had posted in the article’s comments section. The intention of the website is to allow users to create a database of reasonable off airport landing places that they have encountered while they’re driving around. Thus, the website is well worth checking out.

Emergency Runways


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