Out of gas, Michiana pilot makes emergency landing

ELKHART, Ind. – Around power lines and in between oncoming traffic, a pilot navigated a 1977 Cessna safely to the ground.

The small propeller plane took off from the Mishawaka Pilot Club’s Airport in Elkhart around 8 a.m. Saturday.

The pilot, who is not a member of the MPC belongs to the Mishawaka Air Activities Inc. another flying club, rented a plane for the weekend.

On the runway, the man who manages the planes and rents them out spoke to ABC-57 News Sunday afternoon. He did not want to give his name because, “Us aviators look out for one another and I don’t want to embarrass anyone.”

But the man identified the flyer only as Pilot Miller. According to the man in charge of plane rentals, Miller jetted off with his wife and another couple to Branson Missouri, but their weekend getaway got off to a scary start.  

Pilot Miller flew the 737 Poppa Victor, but he and his three passengers did not quite make it to their destination.

Around 2:30 p.m. the pilot alerted air traffic controller he had run out of gas and was trying to land on the highway.

At that time, the plane had been in the air for about six hours, but according to flight records with the FAA, that trip is estimated to only take three hours and eighteen minutes.

People at the runway in Elkhart said Pilot Miller was forced to circle, waiting for clearance to land at the Springfield airport.

Manager of the Mishawaka Pilots Club airport, Tom May said, “If he was circling and held in a pattern, it could have used what fuel he thought he had left.”

About thirty miles from the airport, the pilot made an emergency landing on Missouri Highway 13 in Greene County.

May said Miller probably scanned the area from the sky and picked out a place that was best to land.

“You have to find a spot that is free of all structures, wires and things like that and the airplane will pretty much land itself.”

The pilot maneuvered the plane around the power lines and prepared for landing, “To find a roadway is a very nice thing,” May said.

Miller told other pilots in his flyers club that he had to time it just right, setting the plane down in between the cars traveling on the road.

“He made a very safe landing, did not injure the airplane and to do that in that type of condition is very remarkable,” May said, “He must have done a very fine job.”

May said the emergency landing took a lot of skill, composure, and one more thing, “Any time the engines stop and you land successful, there is a lot of luck.”

The plane was refueled and the four people stayed in Missouri for the weekend, May said the plane was expected to return to Indiana on Sunday night.

The FAA is investigating the incident.

Share this article: