The pilot of a light aircraft who walked away from a plane after it crash landed onto Highway 99 Friday evening, clipped a pole and burst into flames near Ceres, knows how lucky he is.
Santa Cruz resident Dirk Kanngiesser, 59, was flying a 38-year-old Piper Dakota from Truckee to San Carlos when the rented aircraft lost power west of Modesto at approximately 7:40 p.m.
He told KPIX TV that he believed he survived because “ultimately somebody high up wanted it because the odds were against me.”
Dropping quickly in altitude – about 500 to 1,000 feet per minute – he turned southeast in hopes of landing at the Modesto Airport. He realized that he was running out of altitude and spotted the freeway, which was busy with traffic.
Kanngiesser said he saw the Crows Landing overpass and knew he had to avoid it. He steered clear of trees at the southbound onramp of Crows Landing Road but a wing clipped a pole and flipped the aircraft onto the southbound lanes where it rolled and burst into flames. The pilot broke out a window and climbed to safety.
The crash caused an extensive traffic delay as emergency personnel dealt with the fire and wreckage.
Back at home over the weekend, Kanngiesser posted a Facebook message apologizing for the scares and traffic problems his incident caused.
He noted “we pilots in these situations focus on not hurting anyone else. This was accomplished. I am so glad that no one got hurt on 99.”
Kanngiesser has 25 years of experience flying and said he wasn’t scared despite knowing “this was a very bad situation.”