VALDOSTA – David Owens knew something was amiss.
"The engine started running rough and basically went idle. We didn't have any power," he said.
Owens, a 73-year-old flight instructor, took control of the single-engine plane and knew he had to make an emergency landing. The only area close by was the highway.
"It was the only place to go," he said.
Luckily, the Valdosta-area pilot brought the plane down on Interstate 75 near Clyattville safely and glided up the southbound Exit 11 ramp to safety. From there, the plane was towed with a law-enforcement escort to Valdosta Regional Airport.
"It had enough power to taxi about a half mile down the interstate to get it off an exit and at least keep the interstate clear," Owens said.
With 58 years of flying experience, he said Tuesday marked the first time he has had to make this type of an emergency landing.
Owens said the landing was a teaching moment for his student pilot on board. Owens emphasized the priority is always to get passengers on the ground safely.
"It's what we talk to the students about when something like that happens, you go through this mental checklist that you've been trained to do," he said.
No injuries or casualties resulted from the landing, according to authorities.
His first phone call after landing was to his wife. He said she responded with relief saying "You're OK so I'll see you at lunch."
Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk said he felt encouraged hearing Owens piloted the plane.
"I know the pilot and I believe David could fly a bathtub if you gave it to him. He's a very accomplished pilot. Of course, he's an instructor pilot," he said. "He actually taught my 16-year-old grandson to fly, and if this was going to happen, there couldn't have been a better person in that front seat that I know of."
The sheriff said he did not believe any citations would be given as it was an emergency landing.
"I think he maintained the lane (on I-75) so he didn't change lanes on us," Paulk joked.
The single-engine prop plane has been towed from I-75 Exit 11 and taken to the Valdosta Regional Airport.
CLYATTVILLE – A single-engine plane made an emergency landing on Interstate 75 Tuesday morning.
No injuries were reported, Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk said.
The plane landed in the southbound lanes near Exit 11 and the pilot steered it up the exit ramp.
A reporter is on the way to the scene.