Exclusive Video: Pilot Lands on One of America's Busiest Highways
Original Airdate: 9/15/14
A pilot declared an emergency, "Mayday, we're losing engine."
It was a moment of crisis. A harrowing struggle in the skies.
"I don't know if I can make it," reported the pilot.
And the only landing spot? One of the busiest highways in America.
INSIDE EITION's Diane McInerney asked the pilot, "What was first indication something was wrong?"
"I started losing power," he answered.
Now, for the first time, the pilot, Mike Schwartz, is speaking exclusively to INSIDE EDITION and is sharing incredible never-before-seen video of that landing.
The pilot took off from an airport in Danbury, Connecticut, for a sightseeing trip to New York City. It was a clear sunny day. Then, suddenly, every pilot's worst nightmare happened. The plane lost power.
The 50-year-old pilot was giving two passengers, his Brazilian friend Monica and her friend, a bird's eye view of Manhattan this past January.
"It was just a georgous day You could see Manhattan, You could see New Jersey," recalled Schwartz.
A Go-Pro camera was mounted inside the cockpit to record the adventure.
"We ended up getting to the Statute of Liberty and spun around it a couple times. And everything was still wonderful," remembered Schwartz.
At 3:20 P.M. they were heading back to Connecticut when the engine started to sputter.
"It sounded almost like it skipped a beat," said Schwartz.
The plane was losing power. The propeller was actually slowing down.
Pilot Mike said, "The plane is just going down."
"Was there panic on board the plane?" inquired McInerney.
"I didn't panic, I didn't really have time to panic. A little bit of a shock I would guess. And the first thing I said to myself is 'I can't believe this is happening,'" answered Schwartz.
Once the pilot called, "Mayday, we're losing engine," the tower cleared Mike to make an emergency landing at New York's LaGuardia airport.
The tower relayed to Schwartz, "You're about five and half minutes from LaGuardia."
Schwartz answered, "I'll never make it, where do I touchdown?"
The tower responded, "I'm not sure where you should touchdown if you're not going to make it. Harlem river. Major Deegan is highly populated, I don't agree you should go down there."
The Major Deegan expressway slices its way through the borough of the Bronx.
"'The Major Deegan, one of busiest expressways in Manhattan. What went through your mind?" asked McInerney.
"I just have to give it my best shot and do everyting right and there was no room for error," answered Schwartz.
The propeller came to a complete stop.
"How much time did you have to make a life or death decision?" asked McInerney.
Schwartz responded, "Probably about five seconds."
40 seconds later, the plane hit the snow covered highway.
Passenger Monica remembers, "I closed my eyes."
Then, a miracle. Schwartz spotted two lanes completely devoid of traffic. Why? Because a crew was repairing pot holes. It was his only hope.
"I'm gong down!" called out Schwartz into his headset.
After landing Schwartz said, "We survived. Everyone get outta the plane."
The tower responded to the pilot, "Looks like you made a very good landing here. Doesn't look like there's much damage to the aircraft at all."
But, there was some turbulence ahead in Schwartz's private life. Turns out, he is in the middle of a divorce and the fact that he had two young women on board his plane was hard to keep secret.
McInerney asked, "At the time, did your wife know you were seeing Monica?"
"I don't think she knew," answered the pilot.
"Was she angry? Was she happy you survived?" inquired McInerney.
Schwartz chuckled as he answered, "We'll find out soon. Not sure. Double-edged sword there."
Looking back, Schwartz says it's no small miracle he was able to land that plane right on one of the busiest highways in America.