Boise & Garden City

Pilot who landed on I-84 said cockpit distraction kept him from switching fuel tanks

Plane lands on Interstate 84

Raw footage of workers removing the plane.
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Raw footage of workers removing the plane.

Pilot Jon M. Brinkerhoff told investigators looking into the Oct. 13 forced landing of a Cessna 210K plane on Interstate 84 just west of the Orchard Street exit that he meant to switch tanks at the halfway point of his flight from Spokane International Airport to the Boise Airport.

The pilot said he was “distracted in the cockpit” and “failed to switch tanks,” according to a preliminary crash report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board. The report does not explain how Brinkerhoff, 30, was distracted.

Brinkerhoff, flying a load of cargo for his employer, Boise-based SP Aircraft, reported the plane’s engine surged and subsequently lost power as he approached the Boise Airport after about a 40-minute flight before daylight. The plane, which was about one mile from the runway and flying at about 650 feet off the ground, ran out of fuel.

Brinkerhoff said he advanced the plane’s fuel mixture, throttle and propeller knobs to their full forward positions and engaged a fuel boost pump, but was unable to regain engine power. He then evaluated potential landing sites and decided to land the single-engine aircraft on the freeway.

Brinkerhoff attempted to lower the landing gear when the plane was several hundred feet off the ground, but the “landing gear didn’t have enough time to extend,” Brinkerhoff told investigators.

Brinkerhoff, who has Federal Aviation Administration ratings as a commercial pilot and flight instructor for single- and multiengine planes, belly-landed the plane on the two right lanes of the eastbound freeway at about 7 a.m.

He was not injured. 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. Nguyen was not injured.

Nguyen was later cited for leaving the scene of an accident, a misdemeanor. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to appear for trial on Dec. 30.

An FAA inspector found the plane’s fuel system, including both boost pumps, were operating properly. A mechanic who tested the landing gear under the supervision of the FAA found nothing wrong with that system.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell