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Small plane makes emergency landing on I-5 freeway in San Clemente

The 55-year-old pilot was uninjured after landing the plane on the freeway near Basilone Road north of San Onofre.

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. — A pilot in a light airplane made a safe emergency landing on Interstate 5 near Camp Pendleton Monday.

The single-engine Piper PA 24 Comanche touched down in the southbound lanes of the freeway, south of Basilone Road, in the San Onofre area at 12:48 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol and Federal Aviation Administration.

CHP said the plane was flying from John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana to Mongomery Field in San Diego. Flight records show the pilot was about 15 minutes into the flight, off the coast of California, when he turned toward land. CHP reported the pilot experienced an engine issue and determined he needed to immediately land the aircraft.

As the pilot descended, he initially considered landing on Pacific Coast Highway but was concerned it wasn't wide enough. Instead, the 55-year-old San Diegan at the controls decided to land on Interstate 5 South when he spotted a break in traffic.

“He did a really good job. He has the 18 years of flying experience," CHP Officer Mark Latulippe said. “I think a combo of some luck and some experience played out well for us today. This could have been a tragedy.”

The plane blocked the far-right southbound lane of the interstate after landing. Once the aircraft stopped, the pilot got out and pushed the plane completely out of the lanes onto the shoulder.  

Traffic was heavily congested in the area in the early afternoon due to the visual distraction.

The plane remained at the scene for five hours before it was towed to the Oceanside Municipal Airport for repairs.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.