It wasn’t something that either the state trooper or drivers in Washington expected to see as they traveled on a state highway: a plane flying toward them, looking like it was planned to land.
Washington state Trooper Clint Thompson was driving on State Route 7, also known as Pacific Avenue, on Thursday morning when a plane started coming into view and drivers in front of him began hitting their brakes.
Thompson told ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV that at first he thought it was a “remote-controlled plane.”
“As it got closer, it kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” he said.
Thompson’s dashboard camera captured the cars’ brake lights lighting up, with one car even pulling slowly to the side, as the plane soared overhead. The dashboard footage showed the trooper making a quick U-turn and following the plane. He said he turned on his emergency lights and tried to slow traffic down around him.
The plane landed a little after 8 a.m. in the left turning lane on Pacific Avenue and stopped at a red light at the intersection.
In audio from the Pierce County Sheriff Dispatch-East, a dispatcher could be heard saying Thursday: “Several callers reporting a small plane that crashed in that area.”
After exiting his car, Thompson could be seen tapping on the plane’s hood and speaking to the pilot as cars slowly drove by. The pilot got out of the plane, seemingly uninjured, and with help from Thompson, pulled the plane off the highway and onto the side of the road.
“It was crazy,” witness Stu Dewitt told KOMO-TV. “It could’ve been really bad. … For this time of morning, this road is very, very busy.”
Dennis Diessner who was driving down Pacific Avenue at the time of the landing described the incident as “unbelievable.”
“You don’t see a plane landing every day on Pacific Avenue. … I realized what it was and I thought, ‘Jesus Christ, he’s gonna land right on me,'” Diessner told KOMO-TV on Thursday. “When he went by me, I could’ve reached out and touched the tip of his wing. That’s how close I was to that plane.”
Diessner said the pilot popped out of the plane after it landed.
“I asked him if he was all right and he kind of nodded his head [and] I kept going,” the man said. “But, that was scary.”
The emergency landing by the single-prop KR2 plane was due to a fuel system malfunction and no one was injured in the incident, Trooper Johnna Batiste said on Twitter.
The pilot, David Acklam, told KOMO-TV that he was on his way to work when the “engine quit.”
The plane was later loaded up onto a truck’s flat bed and taken away. Acklam thanked the trooper for his actions Thursday.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it was looking into the incident and confirmed that the landing was due to a fuel problem and that no damage had been reported.
“I’m gonna say, in 21 years, this is a first,” Thompson said.