The pilot of a small Cessna reported engine failure as he prepared to land at the Boise Airport on Tuesday morning and ended up landing the single-engine aircraft on the eastbound lanes of Interstate 84 shortly after 7 a.m.
Jon M. Brinkerhoff, 30, of Boise, was the sole occupant and was uninjured, said Idaho State Police and Allen Kenitzer, a regional Federal Aviation Administration spokesman from Renton, Wash. Brinkerhoff was flying a load of freight from Spokane to Boise for SP Aircraft, a Boise-based charter flight company.
ISP listed Brinkerhoff as being from Westminster, Colo., but his pilot’s license lists him as residing in Boise.
Brinkerhoff was on a short final approach to Runway 10-Left when he radioed an air traffic controller to say his airplane was in trouble.
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“7-3-Mike, engine failure,” Brinkerhoff told the controller at 6:59 a.m., using the last two numbers and the letter “M” from the plane’s tail registration. “Engine failure for 7-3-Mike. Mayday, mayday.”
Seconds later, Brinkerhoff radiod again: “Mayday, mayday, 7-3-Mike’s going in on the freeway. Engine failure,” according to an air traffic recording.
At 7:01 a.m., an air traffic controller sought help spotting the Cessna from the pilot of a FedEx cargo plane that was on its final approach to land. Before the FedEx pilot saw the plane, Brinkerhoff cut in.
“7-3-Mike is on the freeway. I’m OK,” Brinkerhoff said.
Chris “Mac” McErlean, a warehouse operator for the SimplexGrinnell company, was outside its building just south of the Flying Wye when he heard the plane.
“It was awfully close to our building and really sounded in distress,” McErlean wrote in an email to the Idaho Statesman.
Immediately after the landing, motorists on the freeway began calling 911 dispatchers at the Ada County Sheriff’s Office. A man told a dispatcher the plane had landed safely.
“He is on the freeway. The aircraft is intact and he is safe,” the man calmly told a female dispatcher.
“We’ve got (help) on the way,” the dispatcher replied.
A second caller said the plane “was throwing sparks. It crashed and it landed safely.”
Brinkerhoff, who has FAA ratings as a commercial pilot and flight instructor for single- and multiengine planes, belly-landed the plane after the landing gear failed to engage. After the plane came to a stop, motorist Dao D. Nguyen, 65, of Boise, clipped the left wing of the plane with a 2006 Ford F150 pickup towing a boat. Nguyen left the scene but later called police to report the incident. He was not injured.
The emergency landing came during the morning commute when thousands of motorists travel on the freeway between Nampa and Boise; it closed two eastbound lanes for two hours. Eastbound traffic backed up for several miles and jammed several connecting roads. Some Boise School District buses were late dropping off students for school.
“The witnesses we talked to saw him coming down and he landed in front of them but everybody was able to get over,” said Teresa Baker, spokeswoman for the Idaho State Police. “It wasn’t until he was landed that the truck clipped the wing.”
The 1970 Cessna 210 is registered to Bonnie and Andy Patrick, of Boise, according to a check of Federal Aviation Administration records linked to the registration number. Andy Patrick is the owner of SP Aircraft.
Andy Patrick told The Associated Press that the pilot forgot to switch fuel tanks and could not make the runway when the engine quit.
No one was injured on the ground. The plane, minus its landing gear, sat on its belly on the far right lane of the freeway for nearly two hours before it could be towed.
The freeway fully reopened after 9 a.m., once crews cleaned up debris.
The FAA will lead the continuing investigation into the incident, Kenitzer said, with assistance from the Idaho State Police.