A plane crash-landed on the Ventura (101) Freeway in Agoura Hills Tuesday, but the pilot managed to get out safely as the vintage aircraft caught fire in the center divider area.
The crash, which was reported about 1:45 p.m. near Liberty Canyon Road, shut down both sides of the freeway, creating a miles-long traffic backup.
No vehicles were involved and the pilot was uninjured, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, which responded and doused the flaming wreckage.
The plane was a North American AT-6, according to the aircraft’s owner, the Van Nuys-based Condor Squadron, a nonprofit group founded in 1965 by a group of World War II fighter pilots. The Federal Aviation Administration, which will investigate the crash along with the National Transportation Safety Board, identified it as an SNJ-5 variant of the AT-6.
The aircraft, which had German World War II-era markings, sustained substantial damage, primarily from the fire that erupted after the crash and burned away much of the fuselage.
Both sides of the 101 Freeway were closed following the crash. Northbound traffic was diverted off the freeway at Lost Hills Road, and southbound vehicles at Liberty Canyon Road, until about 4:30 p.m. when one northbound lane was reopened. Two southbound lanes were reopened soon thereafter, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Condor Squadron spokesman Chris Rushing said the pilot, who is in his early 40s, took off from Van Nuys Airport on a proficiency flight to sharpen his piloting skills.
According to its website, the Condor Squadron operates military aircraft museums at the Van Nuys Airport and in Burbank, and it flies restored aircraft at parades and memorial events honoring veterans.
The group issued a statement thanking first responders for their quick action, and saying the organization is cooperating with the crash investigation.
CHP Capt. Johnny Starling said the pilot took off from Van Nuys Airport, but eventually heard some loud pops from the engine and then lost power.
“He was able to control it and was trying to land it on the 101 Freeway, but there was a car in front of him,” Starling told KTLA5. “So as he landed, touched down, he had to jerk the wheel hard to the left to avoid that vehicle. That’s when he crashed into the center divider.”
Starling said the pilot suffered only some singed hair from the resulting fire. He told the station the pilot has about 30 years of flying experience.
“I think he did a terrific job here,” Starling told Channel 5.
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