DEL MAR, Calif. – New video and audio recordings are helping piece together what led up to a small plane’s emergency landing Tuesday on the 5 freeway near Del Mar.
“Del Mar Racetrack. We may have to land on the race track,” the pilot said in an audio recording of a conversation with air traffic control. “We’re having an emergency.”
The single-engine Piper PA-32 landed shortly after noon on the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Via de la Valle, Federal Aviation Administration and California Highway Patrol officials said. According to CHP, the plane took off from the Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport and experienced mechanical issues in the Del Mar area.
Several passengers in cars that were struck by the aircraft had minor injuries and were transported to a local hospital for treatment. The pilot and passenger were not injured.
“It’s very rare to see a plane on the freeway, but you know you always have to be aware,” CHP Public Information Officer Salvador Castro said. “That’s why we tell people when they’re driving, be aware of your surroundings.”
Dash cam video shared with FOX 5 by La Jolla resident Ian Dyer shows the moments when the plane gradually descended out of the sky and landed in the southbound lanes of the freeway. Dyer was traveling past the area in the northbound lanes.
After hitting several cars during landing, one of the plane’s wings ended up lodged in the back of an Audi SUV. The plane came to stop on the center median and debris was scattered throughout the area.
Around 4:30 p.m., technicians towed the small plane onto a flatbed truck en route for Montgomery Field to be investigated by the FAA and NTSB, according to Caltrans.
FOX 5 aviation expert Bill Hensley weighed in on how incredible it was that the pilot and passenger walked away uninjured.
“The big choices — where do I put this down with minimal damage to other people and certainly to the pilot and the people on board the aircraft itself?” Hensley said.
Hensley added that he looks at it as “kind of miraculous.”
“I’m just so happy that it appears this turned out this way because it could be much, much worse,” he said.
The San Diego Fire Department hazmat crew was able to contain a fuel spill and remove fuel from the airplane.
Hensley says investigations into crashes sometimes can take as long as nine months, but when a pilot survives, that investigation can sometimes go quicker.