MAYDAY! Pilot makes emergency landing on Highway 31

Published 2:00 pm Thursday, May 16, 2013

After fuel issues forced an emergency landing of his ultralight airplane in the middle of U.S. Highway 31 at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, authorities say the pilot and his airplane are OK.

According to Clanton Police Department Capt. Neil Fetner, Chilton County 911 received a phone call at 8:30 p.m. from Atlanta Air Traffic Controls advising they had a Chilton County pilot calling “mayday” on the Chilton County frequency.

Chilton County Airport Authority board member Billy Singleton said the aircraft lost engine power and his distress call was relayed to the Air Traffic Control tower in Montgomery by a military aircraft that was transitioning through the Clanton area.

“The pilot advised he was going to make an emergency landing near Jacks on Seventh Street in Clanton,” Fetner said. “We dispatched our units to shut down traffic near Jacks on Highway 31 for the plane to land.”

Singleton said the pilot, the sole occupant of the aircraft, was uninjured and there was no damage to the aircraft or adjacent property.

“The pilot said there were issues with his engine which caused the airplane to lose power but he also needed to refuel,” Fetner said. “We called some people at the Chilton County Airport to come out and take a look at his plane. They did, got him fuel and determined he was OK to fly his plane to the Chilton County Airport.”

After being cleared for takeoff, the pilot safely landed his plane at the Chilton County Airport after traffic on Highway 31 was briefly shut down to help the pilot.

Singleton said ultralight aircraft are primarily utilized for recreational purposes.

“The pilot had departed the Chilton County Airport to conduct a recreational flight and was returning to the airport when the loss of engine power occurred,” Singleton said.

Fetner said authorities are still trying to determine details of the incident but he is thankful no one was injured.

“It was definitely a unique call to respond to where you have an airplane landing in the middle of the road, but we are glad no one was hurt,” Fetner said. “The situation could have been a lot worse.”

Clanton Police Department, Clanton Fire Department and Alabama Highway Patrol responded to the call.