Pilot told passenger ‘we’re going down’ seconds before Clearwater emergency landing

(Photo courtesy Marc Benedict)

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – “We’re going down!”

That’s what pilot Marc Benedict told his roommate before making an emergency landing on a busy road Sunday morning.

Pinellas County sheriff dash cams caught the dramatic scene.

With an airborne engine failure, Benedict had to put the plane down right away.

Seconds later, he did just that, in the middle of Keene Road in Clearwater.

A small tree spun the plane into a fence.

“There’s a lot to do and it requires concentration, and it’s the culmination of a lot of good training,” said Captain John Cox, retired pilot and current consultant for Safety Operating Systems.

Captain Cox said take offs and landings are the most critical times.

“Based on the video I saw, he did a really good job. The airplane is under control, the landing gear is down. Clearly, he is flying the airplane. He is thinking. He’s deliberately putting it in a safe place,” said Captain Cox.

The pilot of plane that landed on the road said he and his roommate had flown to the Zephyrhills airport, topped off his fuel tanks, then made the trip back to Clearwater Airpark.

Over the “Top of the World” community, not far from the landing strip, Benedict discovered he could not climb and was losing power.

He told passenger Greg Guinee, “we’re going down.”

Seeing traffic in the southbound lanes, he headed for the northbound side.

He yelled for Greg to “brace.”

Seconds later, he hit a sapling, which made him lose control.

With the tanks ruptured, both got out. Captain Cox believes it was lucky there was not a spark to start a fire.

The pilot suspects something happened with the plane’s fuel system.

He’s very happy nobody got hurt and while he missed church yesterday, he plans to be there next Sunday.

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