A pilot headed to Tipton Airport in Fort Meade in a single-engine plane Sunday night ran out of fuel and made an emergency landing on Route 4 in Anne Arundel County, according to Maryland State Police.
Neither the pilot, Michael E. Pridgen, 43, of Odenton, nor anyone on the ground was hurt in the landing, said Cpl. J. Leichtman of the state police, which responded to calls that an airplane had landed on the highway.
Reached at his home yesterday, Pridgen declined to comment about the 11:30 p.m. landing, saying the incident was under investigation. "Since there's an ongoing investigation, I have to stick to the 'no comment' routine," he said.
Leichtman said Pridgen originally told investigators that he had to land his Cessna 172 Skyhawk because the plane had mechanical problems. But a Civil Air Patrol official examining the aircraft found both of its fuel tanks empty. The Cessna 172 can hold 43 gallons of fuel.
"He claimed it was mechanical, but a quick inspection found out that he was actually out of fuel," Leichtman said.
Pridgen brought the small aircraft down on the northbound lane of Route 4 just north of Route 408 near the Prince George's County line in southern Anne Arundel, Leichtman said.
He had traveled from Tipton Airport at Fort Meade, stopped in Smithfield, N.C., and on his way back had refueled in Virginia, Leichtman said.
Pridgen, who was the only one onboard, was about 22 miles from Fort Meade when he brought the aircraft in for a landing, Leichtman said.
Leichtman said the plane sat on the grassy shoulder of the highway, where it had been pushed to make way for traffic, until yesterday afternoon when another pilot refueled it and flew it back to Tipton.
The road was closed temporarily so the pilot could take off from the highway, Leichtman said.
"It was the middle of the night when he landed, so traffic was light," Leichtman said. "There were just a lot of people looking at a plane on the side of the road in the morning."
William Shumann, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the incident, said the failure by a pilot to monitor his fuel gauge could result in any number of disciplinary actions, ranging from a letter of reprimand to revocation of his pilot's license.
"No one got hurt," Pridgen said, "so that's a good thing."