Reno-bound plane makes emergency landing on Colorado highway

DENVER - A pilot flying a vintage plane to an air show in Reno, Nev., made an emergency landing on a suburban highway Saturday morning after the craft suffered engine trouble. No one was injured.

John Zayac, 41, of Englewood, said he ran into trouble at 6:45 a.m. when he was flying at about 12,000 feet over Golden en route to the National Championship Air Races in Reno.

''The engine seized up and we actually blew a cylinder,'' Zayac said.

Zayac, who was flying solo, declared an emergency and was forced to turn the North American SNJ5 back toward Centennial Airport in Arapahoe County, where he had taken off.

The shortest route was over residential neighborhoods, but Zayac said he was concerned about safety so decided to follow E-470, a major roadway that circles the Denver area.

''I was just following it dead center. Originally I was going to try to land there but traffic was so intense at 6:45 in the morning. And then the engine went dead,'' he said in a telephone interview.

He looked for an empty field or road for landing and saw that Colorado Boulevard, a four-lane highway, was mostly clear. He maneuvered to avoid a pickup truck and put the plane down safely on the highway.

''I was more lucky than good. I found a good street to land on,'' he said.

Zayac said he wasn't scared until he hit the ground.

''Everything is kind of reactionary until you get on the ground, that's when my knees started shaking,'' he said.

Within hours, members of Zayac's flight crew for the show were working to repair the plane. He said they hoped to get the vintage craft, which was used as an advanced trainer by the U.S. Navy, to the air races by Sunday.

''All things considered, it turned out great,'' Zayac said.


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