‘Definitely a blessing’ | Pilot speaks after making emergency landing on I-40 East

Frank Grubbs, the pilot of a small plane, made an emergency landing on I-40 East near the Papermill Drive exit on Saturday afternoon.
Published: Jan. 21, 2023 at 8:19 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 22, 2023 at 8:04 AM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - What started off as a fun Saturday flight quickly turned into an intense situation.

Frank Grubbs, the pilot of a Zenith 750 that his friend owns, had to make an emergency landing after less than 40 minutes of flight. So, he landed the plane on I-40 East at Papermill Drive once he realized his engine was failing.

Previous coverage: TDOT: Small plane makes emergency landing on I-40 East

“I got it going again for just a minute but then it went again, and that was it,” Grubbs said.

Grubbs said he tried to find other places to land but couldn’t, so I-40 East quickly became his only option.

No one was injured, and Grubbs was the only person inside the plane, according to Sergeant Thomas Clinton with Knoxville Police Department.

“He was trying to make it onto the ramp where there was less traffic. Luckily nobody was involved with him and he was able to land it safely enough to get him out and keep everybody else safe,” Clinton said.

Traffic on I-40 East became congested for several hours until the plane was removed and taken back to Sky Ranch Airport where Grubbs originally flew out from.

“I’m just sorry I backed traffic up so far. I inconvenienced a lot of people, so I hate that,” Grubbs said.

The plane is expected to remain at Sky Ranch Airport so the Federal Aviation Administration can investigate what happened, according to Grubbs. A preliminary report should be released in the next few days.