CHICAGO — Two hours after landing his airplane early Sunday morning on Lake Shore Drive, part of U.S. Highway 41, John Pedersen looked out at rows of police cars and news vans as he gave his fiancée directions.
“You can’t miss it,” the soft-spoken pilot said into his cellphone.
The airplane parked on a strip of grass caused a spectacle Sunday morning. Police officers posed for photos, drivers slowed for a closer look, and joggers and bicyclists on the lakeshore path traded witty one-liners.
“Oh, this is where I left my airplane,” one cyclist shouted to a companion.
Just two hours earlier, Pedersen of Lombard, Ill., had been flying his two-seat plane over downtown Chicago when a stabilizer broke, causing the aircraft to violently shake. Unable to regain stability, the 51-year-old electrician radioed a mayday call to O’Hare Airport at about 5:45 a.m.
“There’s no way I could have got it to Midway (airport) or O’Hare,” he said.
Pedersen, who said he had been flying for five years, decided that Lake Shore Drive was his best landing spot. He timed his landing to bring the plane down in northbound lanes while traffic was stopped at a red light.
It was a tricky landing, but he stuck it, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said.
Two cars hit the airplane after it landed and then sped off, said Pedersen, who was uninjured in the incident.