News Plane incidents — 15 April 2017

Looking down from 2,800 feet, flight student Jacob Brands had a job unlike any other ­Friday afternoon when the plane he was learning to fly lost oil pressure.

Brands, 22, was told to look out for cars as his instructor Brandon Wynn, 26, of the Lane Aviation Academy, prepared to make an emergency landing on busy Highway 99 North near the Eugene Airport.

The plane — a single-engine Van RV12 Reg.N234VA — had almost made it back to the landing strip it had just taken off from, Wynn said. But the engine died over the highway at 2:20 p.m., and Wynn did the only thing he could. He brought the plane down outside the Fiddler’s Green Golf Center, a mile northeast of the airport.

“We took off, and everything was looking just fine,” Wynn said. But then, “I looked over and the oil pressure had spun to zero. I was hoping to make the runway but didn’t quite do it. But we flew it all the way onto Highway 99, and we were able to make a safe landing.”

Brands, who had been piloting the plane before the oil pressure dropped, called out to Wynn about the cars he could see ­below the plane. The plane only had one close call, Wynn said, but the car was going faster than the plane and was able to get out of the way.

“One car was right below us, but luckily this plane doesn’t go very fast,” Wynn said. “So luckily, they outran us, and I am sure they got a nice surprise in their ­rearview as we touched down ­behind them.”

Wynn has been ­flying planes since 2009 and has a degree from the ­University of North ­Dakota, according to ­program director Steve Boulton. Wynn said he has been an ­instructor at the Lane ­Aviation ­Academy for nearly a year.

Friday’s flight was only Brands’ third. “It was crazy. It was scary,” he said. “But I trusted him, and he kept his calm. He knew what he was doing.”

After it was on the ground, the plane was steered into the golf ­center’s parking lot, as Wynn waited for academy officials to arrive.

Boulton said he was thankful that Wynn and Brands were OK.

He said students and instructors practice emergency landings repeatedly for this very reason.

“It’s built into all the training. We do a lot of simulations,” ­Boulton said. “They practice ­getting into the right position, how to land in the wind, the appropriate spots. Instructors like him know how to judge where it’s going without power.”

While Boulton has experienced engine failures before, this was Wynn’s first, although he estimates having practiced ­between 50 and 100 ­engine failure simulations.

“You go through a lot of training, they tell you to find the best spot that you can. I never had an engine failure like that ­before, so I played it safe and tried to make the runway,” Wynn said. “A highway is just a really long landing strip.  …  You fall back on your training and do what the instructors used to tell me, and it worked out this time. We got lucky.”

The landing initially was reported as a crash over the dispatch scanner. But Lane Fire Authority Chief Terry Ney, who ­arrived at the scene about 2:30 p.m. Friday, was the first to report what had happened. “It was an emergency landing in an inappropriate place,” Ney said.

No injuries were reported, although a car drove into a nearby ditch as the driver appeared to have been “rubbernecking,” or looking at what had occurred, Wynn said.

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