Two hours after landing his airplane on Lake Shore Drive early Sunday morning, John Pedersen looked out at rows of police cars and news vans as he gave his fiancee directions. You cannot miss it, said the soft-spoken pilot into his cellphone. The airplane parked on a strip of grass by Buckingham Fountain caused quite the spectacle Sunday morning. Police officers posed for photos, drivers slowed for a closer look, and joggers and bicyclists on the lakeshore path traded witty one-liners.
"Oh ... this is where I left my airplane," one cyclist shouted to a companion.
Just two hours earlier, Pedersen, of Lombard, had been flying his two-seat plane over downtown Chicago when a stabilizing part broke loose, causing the aircraft to shake violently.
Unable to regain stability, the 51-year-old electrician radioed a mayday call to O'Hare Airport.
"There's no way I could have got it to Midway (airport) or O'Hare," he said.
At the time of the mayday call, about 5:45 a.m., he was flying just 1,900 feet above Millennium Park, he said.
Pedersen, who said he had been flying for five years, decided that Lake Shore Drive was his best landing spot. If timed correctly, he figured, he could bring down the plane while traffic was stopped at a red light.
"You pick a landing spot that's not going to jeopardize anybody else," he said.
He brought the plane down in the northbound lanes, its nose facing north.
It was a tricky landing, but he stuck it, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said admiringly.
Two cars actually hit the airplane after it landed - and then, mysteriously, sped off, Pedersen said. One can only imagine what their drivers were thinking.
Pedersen walked away uninjured, Langford said.
Written by Chicago Tribune