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Plane makes emergency landing on K-254

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, July 5, 2010, at 12:06 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, July 5, 2010, at 3:25 a.m.

Dwayne Clemens said he didn't have time to think.

When the engine quit on his Beechcraft Bonanza on Sunday afternoon with his wife in the passenger seat and his son in the backseat, he made a split-second decision.

Clemens, a longtime pilot and one of the owners of the Benton Airpark, radioed "Mayday," dodged a few cars and power lines, and sat his plane down on the eastbound lanes of K-254 near Greenwich Road.

"It happened so fast, I didn't have time to be scared," he said later.

Before they touched down, he said, his wife, Julie, opened the plane's door in case it got jammed so her family would be able to climb out.

Emergency crews responded shortly after 4:45 p.m.

Dwayne Clemens said he called a neighbor to come tow the plane back to their home near Benton. Escorted by Sedgwick County sheriff's officers, a white pickup began towing the plane slowly east on the highway to Benton/Andover Road shortly after 5 p.m.

For nearly half an hour, traffic stacked up behind the plane as it traveled at 10 to 15 mph down the road.

People hung out car windows with cell phones and caught video clips of the procession.

In the 25 years he has been a pilot, Clemens said, he has had to make an emergency landing twice — the last time 60 days ago when the engine quit on another plane he was flying.

That time, he landed in the mountains of New Mexico.

Julie Clemens, also a pilot, said she was proud of her husband.

"You look at both times there was zero damage and everybody walked away," she said. "I am just glad my husband did an amazing job. He had to make a split-second decision and it all turned out good. Things happen. That's why we train for this type of thing."

Dwayne Clemens said that when he issued the Mayday call, he was initially instructed to make an emergency landing at Colonel James Jabara Airport at K-96 and Webb Road but realized the plane simply wouldn't make it.

"I was just thinking about the kid in the backseat, the family and all the people on the ground — while trying not to hit power lines and signs," he said.

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