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Airplane lands on Highway 65 in Roseville

By: Scott Thomas Anderson, Editor
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"No, I wasn't afraid at all," pilot John Marer joked Wednesday morning after surviving an engine failure in the sky and then landing his plane on Highway 65 alongside rushing traffic.

Marer, who is from Los Angeles, had just put a brand new engine into his four-cylinder Beechcraft airplane. He took off from Rio Linda Airport around 10:30 a.m. with the intention of adding about an hour of running time on the new engine in order to break it in. Ten minutes into the flight, the aircraft lost all power. 

Marer was forced to execute a makeshift landing in the center median of Highway 65 near Sunset Boulevard. The plane swooped in, touching down near the very edge of the eastbound lanes of traffic before steering into the center of the median. The pilot estimated his final landing speed to be around 65 miles per hour. 

"I was trying really hard to make it to Lincoln, but the engine didn't have the energy," Marer told the Press Tribune. "We're taught to find the safest place to land in this situation. I just kept my eyes open and I saw the freeway. It looked like the only place to go."

According to CHP Officer T.D. Sims, there were no injuries caused to motorists nor any damage to passing vehicles. Mechanics from Rio Linda Airport were called to the scene, as well as Placer County firefighters and investigators from the FAA. Two hours later, mechanics determined the plane had been downed by a faulty fuel pump.

Motorists slowing down to look at the plane caused significant traffic congestion in the eastbound lane of Highway 65. Several Caltrans workers and a CHP officer spent the better part of the incident scolding rubber-neckers from hitting their brakes to view the unharmed plane, causing bumper-to-bumper slow downs behind them for at least a mile.

At 1:30 p.m., Placer County firefighters informed media that a plan had been devised by the FAA to fly the airplane off the freeway after a new fuel pump had been installed. However, the nearest fuel pump mechanics could locate was in Los Angeles, meaning the flight off the freeway did not happen until 4 p.m..