A USC student flying a small passenger plane made a safe emergency landing on a Southern California freeway Sunday evening after the single-engine aircraft suffered an engine failure.
The pilot, Izzy Slodowitz, and his passenger, Daniel Gross, walked away unhurt after the plane landed on the Northbound 55 Freeway at Del Mar Avenue in Costa Mesa. No cars were hit and no injuries were reported on the ground, according to California Highway Patrol.
"The fact that I am alive and my passenger is alive, and no one was hurt on the ground, not to mention no damages whatsoever [were sustained] to the airplane, I think is extremely rare, and I would have to say is a miracle," Slodowitz says.
Slodowitz told USC Annenberg Media he departed San Diego International Airport in a six-seater Beechcraft Bonanza bound for Van Nuys Airport in the San Fernando Valley.
The USC Marshall business student was in San Diego attending a charity dinner. "It was a routine flight. I do it quite often," he says.
But things quickly became anything but routine. "Out of the blue, the engine completely just quit…it was a total catastrophic failure," Slodowitz, 25, says. After repeated failed attempts to restart the engine, Slodowitz says he knew he needed to land the plane.
He said he initially wanted to make an emergency landing on John Wayne Airport's runway, but the wind made things difficult. "I eyeballed it and thought there is no way we were going to make it to John Wayne Airport," he says.
After spotting an opening on the Northbound 55 Freeway, the seven-year veteran pilot put the plane on the ground in just a matter of seconds. Once safely on the ground, Slodowitz turned to Gross and said with excitement, "We're alive!"
While admitting he "just escaped death," Slodowitz says he still believes aviation is "far safer than any other mode of transportation."
The Federal Aviation Administration is currently investigating the incident.
For a link to the full interview with Slodowitz on USC Annenberg Media's "The Chat," please click here.