When Aircraft Execute The Highway Merge

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The pilot of a Piper Malibu Mirage says he was "just trying to merge with traffic" when he belly-landed his plane on a highway in Florida last Friday. And he almost did. The big single rear-ended a Jeep carrying two adults and three children, pushing it over a median and into the oncoming lanes. There were no injuries and only minor damage to the plane and car. Pilot David Shelby, who was flying from Foley to his home in Birmingham, Ala., said the nearest airport was eight miles away when the engine quit on the Mirage and when it became clear he wasn't going to make it, the highway was his only option. "I was trying to merge with traffic and hoping there were no cars below," he told the Pensacola News-Journal. That's when he met Aaron Ott and his family. Ott, his wife and three kids, from Gilsum, N.H., were visiting relatives in the area when the plane hit their rented Jeep. "At first I thought I was hit by a car," Ott said. "Then I looked back and there was a propeller." Shelby told local reporters he landed without wheels on purpose. The newspaper said he left the gear up because "he wanted to avoid a major crash."