Highway 89 drivers, like Spencer Mosdell of Kanab, had a strange sight to behold on May 23 around 3:30 p.m. just west of Church Wells. 

“I was on my way back westbound when I saw this blue two-seater airplane flying lower and lower, getting close to the ground,” said Mosdell. “He cleared the front of my car and then the RV ahead of me, and then began to land on the road.”

Mosdell said his lane of traffic had all pretty much come to a halt, but the oncoming traffic had to react quickly to get out of the small plane’s way as it landed. “They all tried to quickly slow down and get off to the side of the road. The pilot smoothly landed and taxied about a mile before turning off onto a side road,” said Mosdell.

Mosdell said his emergency training kicked in. He called 911 and then ran to check if any of the vehicles had crashed or anyone was hurt. Surprisingly (and fortunately), injuries had been averted. 

“I then ran over to the plane to see if everyone was alright,” said Mosdell. “An elderly lady gets out, and then the pilot leans out and said, ‘we’re ok, I just ran out of gas!’”

Responding UHP Trooper Nick Berrie and Big Water Town Marshal Russ Johnson were soon on scene. 

“I don’t know how he did it!” said Berrie, of the 81 year-old pilot’s miraculous landing on such a busy highway. He said the couple were just touring this area, and had intended to fly to Bryce that day. 

“He said he filled the plane in St. Johns, Arizona, but ran into stormy weather that had challenged his fuel consumption, “ said Berrie. “He said when he realized he was running out of gas, he figured the highway would be his best bet to land without crashing.”

Page Airport was called and someone brought the older pilot some fuel. Two hours later, Berrie, with the help of UDOT employee Shayne Ramsay, shut off Highway 89 traffic in both directions for a few minutes to allow the pilot to take off again. 

“He was back in the air by 5:30, and said he was going to spend the night in Page. It was a nice and easy take-off,” said Berrie.