It seems the pilot of a Titan Tornado (their site was down as of late this afternoon) ultralight aircraft—a single-seat, homebuilt hot-rod capable of hitting 90 mph—had some trouble on Tuesday morning when cruising over San Bernardino County’s Mojave Valley, which straddles the California-Arizona border. According to the Associated Press, the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing on the westbound lanes of the Interstate 40 connector road to Interstate 95.
The so-called experimental aircraft made a successful touchdown, but that’s when things evidently went wrong. Problem solved, the pilot apparently decided to take off again from the freeway. Thinking the coast was clear, the pilot, Gene Allen Sheets, 65, revved up the Tornado’s Rotax two-stroke engine, trundled down the eastbound roadway and rose up to about three feet off the ground, say witnesses, who spoke to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Tragically, that’s when the ultralight slammed into an oncoming car. The lightweight, welded-steel and -aluminum structure naturally did not fare well. The pilot was instantly ejected from the cockpit and died at the scene, say authorities. The three people inside the sedan, which suffered a broken windshield, sustained minor injuries, but refused medical treatment.
Needless to say, having safely landed on a public roadway, it was probably not the best decision to try to take off again. The pilot was likely just trying to avoid having to arrange for somebody to drive over and tow the plane back to the airport.
Ultralight aircraft, by the way, are what Winged Migrations producers used to get those close-ups of geese.