Morning Commute Out of La Jolla on Hwy 52 (8/28/96 9:00 AM)

San Diego Union Tribune News Article (8/29/96)

Pilot forced to land on busy Route 52

By Joe Hughes

August 29, 1996

Dodging vehicles and power lines yesterday morning, John Ford managed to land his Cessna 152 on the eastbound lane of state Route 52 near Regents Road. The plane was undamaged and no one was injured.

"It happened so fast; all I remember is watching out for cars and power lines," said Ford. "We train for such emergencies every day, so it worked out OK. I'm just glad traffic wasn't heavy on the freeway."

Ford, 27, and traffic reporter Thomas Black, 26, were providing coverage of accidents and road conditions for radio and TV reports when the plane lost power.

"We were en route to check out an accident on westbound 52 when it happened: I lost all power," said Ford, who works for Metro Traffic Control. "It's kind of ironic that we were looking for traffic congestion and became part of the congestion ourselves."

California Highway Patrol spokesman Mark Gregg said Ford managed to turn the plane around and avoid two sets of low-hanging power lines before touching down.

"He then coasted to the right shoulder area and stopped," Gregg said.

Vehicles on state 52 were able to avoid the landing plane, and no accidents were reported. However, traffic was jammed up for about an hour and the Regents Road east ramp to state 52 was closed until 10:40 a.m.

One police officer said it was a "perfect emergency landing -- no harm, no foul." The aircraft is owned by California Wings, based at Montgomery Field.

Ford said he thought the plane had enough fuel for four hours of flying. It had been airborne about 90 minutes.

"I don't know what happened, but it's a first for me," he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration was investigating the cause of the incident.

In November 1990, two men flying for Metro Traffic Control were killed when their plane stalled and crashed in Solana Beach.

Copyright 1996 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.