Student Pilot Makes Emergency Landing in the Middle of California Freeway: I Thought I Could Die

A student pilot in Southern California was forced to land on a busy freeway after her light plane experienced sudden engine failure.

A student pilot got a lesson in staying calm this week after she was forced to make an emergency landing on a busy California freeway.

Danielle Lagree, 27, and her flight instructor from Encore Flight School had just taken off from Van Nuys airport Monday when the engine of their light aircraft began to sputter.

Moments later, after ruling out pilot error, the instructor realized they were experiencing engine failure and that a split-second decision had to be made.

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“We were coming down and so we either were going to go on a dirt patch or we found the highway,” Lagree told CBSLA.

Even then, there was only one real option, said Lagree, whose instructor told her that a dirt landing left them with a startling "30 percent chance of living."

The plane had been en route to Camarillo when the instructor realized they needed to land on Highway 23 in Ventura County around 4:30 p.m.

But first, they needed to avoid several obstacles.

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“We saw the cable lines and we thought we were going to hit them, but we went right over them,” Lagree said. She also told CBSLA that all the vehicles on Highway 23 slowed to allow the plane to land, save for one, which managed to squeak by.

After a smooth landing, no one was injured and no damaged property was reported.

And Lagree, who said she has some 70 hours under her belt, will fly another day.

“I took a few deep breaths and I’ll still go fly tomorrow,” she said.

Mechanics from Lagree's flight school dismantled the plane Monday night in order to tow it back to Van Nuys.

On Tuesday, the FAA was expected to inspect the plane in order to determine what went wrong.

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