P.E.I. pilot makes dramatic Florida landing
Jim Whitty has 50 years of piloting experience and was flying his Cessna 1,500 feet above southwest Florida
A Prince Edward Island pilot is the talk of southwest Florida after a dramatic emergency landing on a road miles away from any airport.
Jim Whitty has 50 years of piloting experience and was flying his Cessna 1,500 feet above southwest Florida on Saturday morning.
He was with his brother-in-law in a plane he had been flying for decades when the engine started to malfunction.
Whitty says it started about ten minutes into the flight.
“The engine started to run rough, and then backfired really bad,” he said. “Big backfire explosion. And then the engine quit so it was only five seconds before I knew I wasn't going to make it.”
He says his only hope was to try and land on a roadway below. Luckily he says, it was early on a Saturday morning and the road was mostly clear of traffic.
“All I did was turn on my anti-collision lights, then my landing and taxi lights,” he said. “So I turned them on. They're very bright, and the few people on the road pulled off to the side, and I came in and landed.”
Whitty’s friends back in P.E.I. say they aren’t surprised and said it was good training put to use.
Brent Taylor faced a similar situation in the 1980s and had to land on a New Brunswick highway.
“You look for a safe landing zone,” he said. “In fact, even when you're flying in a perfectly good airplane, you should always be on the lookout for safe places to land if something should go wrong.”
Taylor says fellow pilots will use Whitty’s experience as a learning tool.
“We'll talk to Jim when he gets back here in the spring and we'll ask what went through his mind,” he said. “It'll all help us with safety procedures as we go flying every day.”
Whitty says the incident hasn’t scared him away from flying. He says he knows what went wrong with his plane's engine, though the Federal Aviation Administration is still investigating the incident.
He says he'll be back in the sky as soon as his plane's cleared for take off again.