ESCANABA - Practice makes perfect. A pilot who had to make an emergency landing on an Escanaba road Monday night attributes the safe stop to practice landings he performed in training.
Pilot Steve Atkins and passenger Donald Poe, both of Gladstone and both members of the Civil Air Patrol, were forced to land around 8:30 p.m. on Danforth Road after the plane's engine lost power. They were en-route to Escanaba from Houghton where they attended a Civil Air Patrol meeting earlier.
"We lost thrust. The engine just cooled down and we had no power," Atkins explained this morning while securing the scene. He said he tried to make it to the Delta County Airport but knew it wasn't going to happen.
Pilot Steve Atkins, at right, and passenger Donald Poe, both members of the Civil Air Patrol, check out a plane this morning that they were forced to land on a road in Escanaba. (Daily Press photo by Jenny Lancour)
The plane was headed west on Danforth Road when the emergency landing was made.
It came to rest at a red light at the intersection at 30th Street North, Atkins said. From there, the plane was parked in the Bink's Coca-Cola Bottling Company parking lot.
Atkins said when he was taking the plane down on Danforth, there was an eastbound white pickup truck on the road headed his way.
"At the last second, he took the ditch," the pilot said, saying he owes the guy a steak dinner, whoever he is. If the driver hadn't left the roadway, it would have been a different ending, said the retired commercial pilot.
Besides the oncoming traffic, Atkins said the landing went pretty smoothly. When he made the decision to land, he knew Danforth was a well-lit roadway with the least amount of traffic.
"We train for this," Atkins added, saying he had practiced making two emergency landings during training last year.
Poe, the passenger in the plane, said it was scary but he never doubted Atkins' piloting skills to make the emergency landing.
"I've rode with him many times. I have lots of confidence in Steve. I knew there was no way we were going to make the airport," Poe said this morning, adding he was thankful to be on the ground.
Atkins has been flying since 1962 when he was 12 years old, he said. He is the commander of Group 700 Civil Air Patrol which is made up of three squadrons including one from Escanaba. Poe is the deputy commander. Escanaba Public Safety responded to the emergency and the Delta County Sheriff Department assisted at the scene.