Paul Deane-Freeman suffered a fractured T12 vertebrate when his plane crashed into a concrete divider amongst the rush hour traffic on Highway 91 in Delta, B.C. on Wednesday afternoon.
Speaking from his home on Thursday where he is recovering, he said the afternoon flight had started off pleasantly enough, and he managed to practice four water landings before deciding to fly over his home.
But the plane's engine suddenly quit, leaving him with no power and few choices where to put the plane down.
"The engine was running really, really well, and then it wasn't. It seized up or something," said Deane-Freeman.
Seconds to decide
With only 1,200 feet of altitude, Deane-Freeman said he had only seconds to pick a spot for an emergency landing.
"All I had was trees below me...all I could see was Highway 91 there," he recounted.
"I stalled twice over the trees. Almost bought it there. And then I cleared the trees and managed to get enough airspeed to get to the far right-hand lane going with the flow of traffic."
Once over the highway, his concern switched from trees to lampposts and cars as he glided in for the emergency landing.
"Then I clipped a sign about 10 feet off the ground, and that messed things up a lot more," he said.
Remarkably, he managed to miss all the vehicles on the road, but ended up crashing into the concrete divider, sparing him from heading into oncoming traffic.
The whole incident took about a minute and half he estimates. The plane, he says, will need repairs to the engine to find out why it stalled, along with the landing gear and its boat-like hull that allows it to land on water.
Nevertheless, he said, "It could have been a lot worse. I could have been in the trees and then fallen 100 feet."
New pilot not discouraged
Deane-Freeman says he has been flying since he was a kid but only got his licence last year, just before buying the unique plane.
He admits he could have paid more attention to the warnings in the manual when he purchased the plane.
"In the manual it says [these engines can be] subject to sudden stoppage, so I guess they mean that. They are not certified for use in any kind of aircraft, it says."
And it's not the first time he's had to make a forced landing he admits. Once he had a throttle cable snap, leaving the engine running full speed during a landing.
He says he's been told by his doctor to take it easy while his back heals, but he's keen to get back in the air once both he and his plane are cleared to fly.
"It didn't shake me up a bit. It is all fine. Just got to be careful with the engines. Make sure that you know how much time is on the engine, because they just suddenly go."