The Federal Aviation Administration and the Houston Police Department are investigating a plane crash that happened after a pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in northwest Houston.
The plane touched down in a grassy area next to TAM International at Pinemont and Highway 290 and then came to rest in an employee parking lot. The pilot and his passenger were able to walk away from the crash. No one on the ground was injured.
According to police, the pilot of the experimental plane left Weiser Airpark in Cypress with a friend Friday morning. The pilot told investigators when they got to the area of 610 North Loop and Highway 290, he noticed the engine started to fail and he then turned the plane around in an attempt to get back to the airport. Realizing he wasn't going to make it, the pilot began looking for a place to land.
"He told me he was looking for a place on Hempstead, he was looking for a place on the freeway, and this was the largest open field where he could put the aircraft down," said Tray Riley, an investigator from the Houston Police Department's vehicular crimes division.
Riley said after the plane touched down, it then spun around in the parking lot and came to rest about 300 yards from the point of impact.
A witness inside the building described seeing the plane outside her window.
"When I first saw him it was about roof level, losing altitude and curving around the side of the building. I came out the side door and when he came around the corner, I saw he touched down," said Joy Stafford, an employee of Tam International.
Riley told Local 2 the pilot's actions likely saved lives.
"That was like threading a needle, for him to be able to land in this small of an area with that kind of an aircraft," said Riley.
Stafford was also surprised that no one was hurt. She told Local 2 when she saw the plane coming down, she hoped for the best but feared the worst.
"He missed a very busy road. The parking lot may have been full any other day of the week. He saw an open area, took the opportunity and decided to bring it down. I'm just glad we had it for him," said Stafford.
Riley said there is surveillance video from the business and it shows a very hard and fast landing. That video is being turned over to investigators.
The plane is being dismantled and we're told it will be taken to the airport hanger where the investigation will continue.