A pilot safely landed Tuesday afternoon on Interstate 470 in Lee’s Summit when one of his plane’s engines failed shortly after takeoff.
The emergency landing happened safely without any vehicle damage or motorist injury – a near-miracle, local law enforcement said.
The pilot landed his twin-engine plane shortly before 2 p.m. on eastbound I-470 just past Douglas Road, right as the highway starts to curve northbound and picks up Missouri 291. Flight records show he would have taken off just minutes earlier from nearby Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport.
Sgt. Andy Bell of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the pilot, who was on board alone, told officers he was on his final approach when he experienced engine failure and determined his only chance to land safely was on the highway.
"Thankfully traffic was not as congested as it could’ve been," Bell said. "It all worked out – just short of a miracle, I would say."
Eastbound traffic was blocked for more than an hour until the airport was able to tow the plane with a truck to the exit at Strother Road. From Strother, people would have to cut away some fencing to get the plane off the road, said Sgt. Chris Depue of the Lee’s Summit Police Department. Eastbound traffic was detoured to Colbern Road until the plane was towed.
Records show the plane, a 1956 twin-engine Beechcraft Bonanza, is registered to Cyrus Hund of Kansas City and had made at least three other flights this month. Bell said the Federal Aviation Administration made an initial assessment before clearing the tow-away and will be investigating the incident.
Depue said this marks the third time in about 50 years of the Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport that a plane landed on a nearby highway.
Traffic going south and then west were not blocked, but many motorists slowed around the curve at the curious sight, and dozens of people gathered on the outer road just south of I-470 to catch the scene. One man, who declined to give his name, said he lives in a nearby neighborhood and is accustomed to hearing the planes to and from the airport, but with this one, "I could tell something wasn’t right."
Bell said the plane’s wing clipped a highway sign as it landed, but emphasized the good fortune that nothing worse happened.
"At 2 p.m. traffic starts to pick up here," he said. "There’s no field (next to the road) to land."