A small commuter plane made an dramatic emergency landing on the Loudoun County Parkway in Virginia earlier today. The plane, operating as Southern Airways Express Flight 421, took off from Dulles International Airport bound for Lancaster, Pennsylvania but was forced to land on the highway just two minutes later.## What We Know
The Cessna Grand Caravan EX aircraft departed Dulles at 9:12 AM EST with 7 people on board, including 2 crew members and 5 passengers. Shortly after taking off it radioed the control tower that it wanted to turn back around and land. The plane then made a hard landing on the Loudoun County Parkway near Arcola Mills Drive.
Several witnesses driving on the Parkway at the time reported seeing the plane flying very low and unsteadily before it touched down on the road. Miraculously, the plane did not strike any vehicles as it landed.
Local police were quickly on scene and said no one onboard the plane or on the ground was injured. The plane sustained some damage to its landing gear and underside.
Loudoun County emergency response crews including firefighters, EMTs, and state troopers all rushed to the site once the plane was down. They checked on the condition of everyone onboard and helped passengers exit the plane.
The Loudoun County Parkway was temporarily closed in both directions causing major traffic delays during the Friday morning commute. Nearby roads were also congested from both rubbernecking and diverted traffic.
As crews worked to clear debris from the road and move the plane to a safe location, traffic was diverted. The plane was towed off the Parkway around 11:15 AM allowing the road to reopen. Residual delays continued for another 30-45 minutes before returning to normal.
The National Transportation Safety Board has taken over the investigation into the incident. They will be looking at flight data, conducting interviews with the crew, and thoroughly examining the aircraft to try to determine what caused the emergency.
Early speculation is pointing to possible mechanical issues, weather conditions, or human factors. Wintry precipitation and low visibility at the time may have also been a factor. Investigators will likely take 12-24 months to release an official incident report.
In a statement Southern Airways said:
“Southern Airways Express Flight 421 from Dulles to Lancaster initiated emergency procedures after departure this morning. The aircraft landed safely on a roadway without any reported injuries. We are fully cooperating with investigators and will provide more information as it becomes available.”
The regional carrier operates a fleet of small 9-seat Caravan turboprops primarily in the Mid-Atlantic region. This is the airline’s first emergency landing incident after over 150,000 total flights since they began operations in 2013.
News of the dramatic emergency landing quickly went viral on social media. Many people expressed relief that no one was hurt while also marveling at the incredible piloting skills it must have taken to land the plane on a highway.
Others raised concerns over the safety and reliability of smaller commuter aircraft compared to large commercial jets. Some worried this may deter people from flying or strengthen “road rage” toward aircraft.
Local resident Brian Alexander who witnessed and photographed the plane coming down said:
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing but it was definitely a plane coming right for the parkway. My jaw dropped when it made contact with the ground and I saw its wheels roll across the pavement. The pilot managed to land it perfectly between cars – it was amazing.”
For now operations at Dulles continue normally without disruption. Passengers on the flight will be rebooked on later flights either today or in coming days once cleared by investigators.
The damaged plane will eventually be transported to a facility for a full teardown and rebuild. There it will help technicians better understand potential failure points and inform future safety enhancements.
While abnormal, emergency landings like this demonstrate the incredible skills of aviation crews at handling crisis situations. After a thorough investigation, air travel is still expected to remain extremely safe.
|7 total onboard
|No injuries reported
|Landing gear and underside damage sustained
This unusual incident will likely prompt updated safety guidance or training procedures regarding winter weather ops or abnormal takeoff issues. But local authorities and aviation experts are relieved at the successful outcome of this emergency plane landing where no lives were lost and no additional vehicles/property damaged.
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