Plane makes a surprise landing on the Coquihalla

Social media was alive Sunday night with pictures from Coquihalla commuters.

The Coquihalla has been called many things, but this weekend a Chilliwack man thought it was good enough to call a runway.

Social media was alive Sunday night with pictures from Coquihalla commuters who witnessed the pilot’s surprise landing on a grassy stretch dividing two lanes of traffic at around 3:30 p.m., near the Coldwater road South of Merritt.

“We just drove past it and noticed someone looking at the plane… assumed it was the pilot,” said Debbie Ross, who snapped a pic that was shared far and wide. She didn’t stop, noting that the pilot looked fine, despite the surprising predicament.

A Ministry of Transportation representative confirmed that the pilot was OK.

“Ministry staff spoke with the pilot, who explained that the plane experienced a mechanical failure, and the cabin began filling with smoke,” said a representative. “He was able to ensure an adequate break in traffic, and landed in an area that allowed him to pull into the median and out of harm’s way.”

RCMP say the man is from Chilliwack and had sent numerous mayday messages that were received by Abbottsford Air Control.

The pilot stated that he had been flying from Chilliwack to Merritt on a leisure trip when he had mechanical difficulties, said Const. Tracy Dunsmore with the Merritt RCMP.

“Worried about power lines and the loss of power in his plane the pilot located a break in traffic flow and was able to touch down safely in the North bound lanes of Hwy 5 and taxi into the median out of danger from traffic,” said Dunsmore.

The aircraft was undamaged and the pilot was uninjured. With detachable wings the aircraft was able to be loaded on a standard trailer and removed from the highway with no incident.

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