Pilot who landed small plane on I-20 in Alabama says he was 'out of options'

TALLADEGA, Ala. — A man who was forced to land a small plane on I-20 in Alabama on Saturday talked to Channel 2 Action News about the harrowing ordeal.

Jim Williams, the plane's pilot, said his plane was 4 or 5 miles from the Talladega Airport when something didn't sound right. The flight instructor tried to troubleshoot, but the engine wasn't working.

"I was out of options," Williams said. "And the interstate was the closest, so I made a left turn and dodged some traffic and a sign and managed to get it stopped."

An Atlanta family recorded video of Williams setting the plane down in the middle of busy holiday traffic.


Fredie Carmichael and his family were on their way from Georgia to Mississippi for Christmas when they saw the plane land right in front of them.

"Living in south Atlanta, I drive by Hartsfield every day," Carmichael said. "So it's not really uncommon to see a plane flying low overhead."

But Carmichael said he and his family soon realized this was more than just a plane flying too low.

"The was one car, I think it was a Saturn," Carmichael said. "You can see it in some of the footage. But the Saturn obviously didn't see the plane, and I thought the right wing of the Cessna was going to clip it. I thought it was going to land on it."

Williams is grateful he, his student pilot and everyone else walked away unharmed. He said so much was going through his mind in those moments leading up to the landing.

"Probably everything that I had taught students for the last 36 years," Williams said. "And picking out a place for an emergency (landing). And on an interstate, you landing with the traffic instead of against the traffic, and everything seemed to work out good."

Williams said it was the student pilot's first flight.