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Pilot Lands Disabled Plane on Interstate 15

Times Staff Writer

An Anaheim man piloting an experimental, home-built airplane was forced to make an emergency landing Monday on Interstate 15 near Corona, then walked away without serious injury despite clipping a motor home on the way down, officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board and local authorities were investigating the crash late Monday, but officials said the plane appeared to lose oil pressure, forcing the emergency landing.

The pilot, who was alone in the plane, was identified as Kenneth Nicholson, 82.

He had taken off earlier Monday from Chino Airport and was heading to a small airport near Temecula, said Corona Fire Department Battalion Chief Ted Yancu. After detecting trouble on board, the pilot headed for the nearest airstrip, near Corona, then “realized he wasn’t going to make it,” Yancu said.

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Shortly before noon, several drivers called 911 on their cellular telephones to report that a small airplane was fluttering above and appeared to be in trouble, said California Highway Patrol dispatcher Aileen Munoz. Minutes later, “the plane fell,” Munoz said.

The pilot elected to land in the northbound lanes of Interstate 15, about three miles south of the Riverside Freeway. On the way down, the plane struck a white motor home, then hit the center divider of the highway.

“He walked away,” Yancu said. “It was amazing.”

The driver of the motor home also was unhurt, officials said.

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Yancu said he wondered why Nicholson was so calm after the incident, until he was told that Nicholson was a pilot in World War II.

“So he’s probably seen it all,” Yancu said. “This was probably nothing for him.”

No further details about the plane were available, but it appeared to be home-built and propeller-driven, officials said.

The CHP closed two northbound lanes of Interstate 15, and traffic backed up for several miles during the afternoon. The plane was to be loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken to Chino Airport for investigation, officials said.

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Local NTSB officials could not be reached for comment, and NTSB officials in Washington said they had not been briefed on the incident late Monday.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jerry Snyder said pilots can be held liable for damages resulting from an improper landing, but it remained unclear whether that would happen in this case, officials said.


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