A Cessna 177 Cardinal RG airplane flown by Tenmile pilot Marc Girardet lost power and made an emergency landing shortly before 2 p.m. today on Interstate 5 near Milepost 131 north of Roseburg.
Girardet, 38, of Tenmile, landed safely with the help of his passenger Doug Denham, 56, of Aloha, who looked below for a clearing in southbound traffic, the men told The News-Review in an interview at the scene.
“At first we were in disbelief and thought, ‘This isn’t happening,’ ” Denham said. “We started to set down and thought, ‘Oh, my god, will (the cars) see us?’ And then all of the sudden, there was room.”
The plane coasted onto the median and out of traffic lanes. There were no injuries and traffic was not blocked, according to the Oregon State Police.
Girardet and Denham said they took off from the Roseburg Regional Airport and were about 15 to 20 miles north of Roseburg when the engine started losing power. The plane was at 3,500 feet and climbing when the trouble began.
“We didn’t notice anything at first. On a hot day there is not as much lift and power,” Denham said. “Then, the plane lurched, and we lost a lot of power.”
Girardet, who was flying Denham to the Portland area for a physical therapy appointment, turned the plane around to head back to Roseburg. He said he realized the plane wasn’t going to make it to the airport and decided to make an emergency landing.
Girardet radioed the Roseburg Regional Airport to alert officials of their situation, before losing contact, he said.
“The RPMs kept getting lower and lower. I tried to see if I could restart the engine, but nothing was working,” Girardet said.
The engine stopped entirely as soon as the plane set down, Girardet said.
A bystander, LaVerne Huntley of Sutherlin, said she was driving south to Roseburg when she saw the plane descending.
“The airplane landed on the freeway, right in front of me. I thought it was going to crash. It looked wobbly. But it landed and kept going down I-5,” Huntley said.
The plane narrowly missed power lines as it came in for its landing, Denham said.
The Oregon State Police, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Sutherlin Police Department, Oregon Department of Transportation and firefighters responded.
Denham said the plane had undergone all of the required safety checks before the men departed.
Even so, the men discovered after landing that the plane was leaking oil.
“My instructor trained me for this (situation) many times,” Girardet said. “I’m just really thankful no one got hurt.”
• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 and firstname.lastname@example.org.