Highway 61 landing revisited
Justin Krom experienced a pilot's nightmare a week ago: Thousands of feet in the air, his plane's engine suddenly died. That's what happened Dec. 31, when he and two passengers were wrapping up a 45-minute test flight of a single-engine Cirrus SR22.
Justin Krom experienced a pilot's nightmare a week ago: Thousands of feet in the air, his plane's engine suddenly died.
That's what happened Dec. 31, when he and two passengers were wrapping up a 45-minute test flight of a single-engine Cirrus SR22. They were 2,000 feet in the air, preparing to land at the Cirrus factory at the Duluth airport, when the engine failed.
"It definitely makes your heart jump into your throat for a minute or so," said Krom, 27, a Cirrus pilot. "I didn't have time to think about it. I just knew what I needed to do, where I needed to put it."
That day he put the plane down safely on state Highway 61. Krom was back in the air Wednesday, flying over that same stretch of Highway 61.
"Looks good," he said, looking down at the four-lane highway. "If I had to, I'd land there again."
Krom said he's thought about and trained for this situation ever since he got his license to fly eight years ago.
"I've often thought about if something were to happen, Highway 61 would be a good option," he said.
Krom and his passengers agreed that, given they were seven miles away from an airport, Highway 61 was the only option.
"Looks an awful lot like a runway," he said. "Nice wide place to land, no trees, seemingly no power lines."
And so, in the middle of a typically busy roadway, Krom landed the plane. They were lucky to find a spot with no cars for at least a mile ahead. They also were lucky not to hit any power lines, because after taxiing for about 2,000 feet, they passed under a set of lines that Krom hadn't noticed.
Moments later, without a scratch to the plane and no damage to road signs or anything else, the plane stopped, temporarily backing up traffic.
"Other than the fact my engine wasn't working, it was a normal landing," Krom said.
Krom returned to Cirrus and called his wife, who hadn't heard the news yet.
"He said, 'I had an engine failure and I landed on 61,' " said his wife, Lisa. "And I think at that point the tears started going."
"It was very, very scary," she said. "It was one of those calls, having a husband that's a pilot, you know something could happen and you hope it never does, but when it does, you're happy that all the training paid off."
Both, however, believe it was more than just training.
"His grandfather, who passed away a few years ago, was also a pilot, so that there's a part of me that thought there were some people up there watching out for him," Lisa Krom said.
Krom said because no one was injured and nothing was damaged, the Federal Aviation Administration considers it an "incident," not an accident. Cirrus is investigating what went wrong with the engine.