Pilot Makes Emergency Landing On Highway

Bill Leff was flying with his son to an air show in Oshkosh, Wis., when his World War II plane had to make an emergency landing on a Fond du Lac highway.

"I was just arriving here on Oshkosh, just south of Fond du Lac, Wis., and suddenly had engine trouble," he told The Early Show weatherman Dave Price. "I immediately turned towards the airport because it was the nearest place. And called the tower, told them I had a problem. They transferred me over to the Fond du Lac tower. They cleared me to land anywhere I could get to. As I was approaching Fond du Lac airport, the engine just quit. The prop just locked up. I was — the only place really to go after I evaluated everything was to land on the highway. There was a lot of traffic on the highway."

After Leff, of Dayton, Ohio, was forced to land amidst the heavy traffic, he slowed traffic in both directions for hours. The plane's right wing was damaged when it hit several highway signs, but no one was injured. Leff said he didn't panic while trying to land the plane in those difficult circumstances, but paid attention to business. He said he found a space between some cars that were heading northbound, and aimed for that.

"There was a motor home sitting on the side that happened to belong to a friend of mine. And he had a flat tire and there were two state police cars standing — or sitting there helping them," he said. "And they, at that time, pulled out. You can see on the video they just started to pull out right into where I was going to land."

But the footage that people are seeing of the amazing landing doesn't tell the whole story, Leff said. He landed behind a police car and then intentionally bounced the airplane over it because he was afraid he might hit the car if he kept going.

When the squad car pulled up to him, the officer told Leff: "Wow, that was something."

Leff's plane is a North American T6 "Texan," and was built in 1943. It was the most widely used advanced trainer during WWII and the Korean War.
  • Caitlin Johnson

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