Jackson County

Pilot lands light plane on Interstate 10 in Jackson County

JACKSON COUNTY -- A young pilot landed a single-engine Cessna 150 amid traffic on Interstate 10 on Monday, a Memorial Day surprise to drivers who slowed down to give him room to maneuver.

Rodney McKnight Jr., 24, of Auburn, Ala., kept a cool head and landed the red-and-white two-seater in the middle of the four eastbound lanes, between the D'Iberville exit and Ocean Springs exit 50, at about 12:30 p.m.

He told the Sun Herald he lost power at 3,500 feet, contacted Gulfport airport and told the control tower he would turn around and try for Mobile. But McKnight said he realized he wouldn't make it.

"I took a moment to trouble-shoot," he said. "Once I determined there was nothing I could do, that's when I decided to make an emergency landing."

He picked the lanes of I-10.

"I timed my approach perfectly," he said. "The traffic that was behind me, they slowed down. The traffic in front of me, they were of no factor. They were going faster than I was at touch-down speed."

Once on the ground, he moved to the shoulder and then into the grass along the interstate.

His passenger, Jim Callahan, said he wasn't scared. He said McKnight is an experienced pilot. He has had his license since 2013.

"I did my job: Stay quiet and don't move," he said.

The two work at companies out of the Auburn University Regional Airport -- Callahan with Callahan Aircraft Services and McKnight with an associate company.

McKnight said they took off from Auburn, Ala., intending to spend Memorial Day in Gulfport and have lunch with Callahan's cousin.

Monday was an off day for them and the trip was supposed to be fun, they said. Instead, Callahan's cousin was helping them secure a trailer to transport the plane back to Auburn.

The plan was to take the wing off and trailer the plane and wing.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol had units flashing warning blue lights on both sides of the interstate, cautioning traffic as they waited for the trailer. Traffic was slow going by the plane at 3 p.m., but not backing up.

MHP Trooper Chase Elkins said there were no wrecks or major traffic problems associated with the emergency landing.