‘I can land on a bridge. It’s possible.’ Teen pilot safely lands banner plane following engine failure

An 18-year-old banner plane pilot safely landed his aircraft on a southern New Jersey bridge after experiencing engine trouble.

News 12 Staff

Jul 22, 2021, 2:24 AM

Updated 997 days ago

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An 18-year-old banner plane pilot safely landed his aircraft on a southern New Jersey bridge after experiencing engine trouble.
Landon Lucas was flying the Piper J-3 over the ocean when he realized the engine was not working. He says that in that moment, he had to make a very important decision – land the plane in the water or get creative.
Lucas was able to land the plan on the Ninth Street Bridge in Ocean City – no damage and no injuries.
“There was a 38-foot-wide road, and my wingspan is 35 feet,” he says. “I see there’s no cars for a good quarter-mile, so I put it in there and luckily enough the car behind me saw it and gave away.”
Lucas has only been on the job with Paramount Air Service for a few weeks. He says that it was 12:30 p.m. on Monday and he was flying at about 500 feet near Steel Pier in Atlantic City. That’s when the engine began to sputter.
“Essentially, I had almost a total engine failure out of nowhere. A snap, like that,” Lucas says.
He says that he was spooked when it first happened.
“I’m sitting there having M&Ms, just having a good old morning,” he says. “I was fully ready to put this thing into the water and then swim to shore.”
What he would later learn is that the air box in the engine had come loose. It pulled the lever that allows fuel into the engine, starving the engine of fuel.
At the time, he had enough power that he passed on landing at Bader Field, an old airstrip in Atlantic City and was aiming toward Ocean City Airport. But then the issue got worse.
“The engine completely quit, the propeller stopped about one mile north of Ninth Street Bridge,” Lucas says.
He was essentially in a very heavy glider and had to put the plane down as soon as he saw the opening among the cars.
Lucas says that he always knew that he might have an emergency someday, just not this early in his career. He says that he considers it to be a learning experience.
“You learn, hey, I can land on a bridge. It’s possible,” he says.
The plane is being repaired and should be ready to fly in a few days. Lucas is already back in another play flying banners over the beach.


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