Engine failure forces pilot to land plane in shopping center parking lot

(WTHR Photo: Kyle Thomas)
Plane makes emergency landing
Pilot lands plane in parking lot

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — "He came over that gray building over there," said Jordan Perkins, who wouldn't have believed it, if he hadn't seen it for himself.

It was just after 2:45 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

A small plane, flying just above him on I- 465, the plane then coming in low, turning a road in the Trader's Point Shopping Center parking lot into a runway for landing.

"There was no sound, so it sounded like the engine was gone," said Ron Watson, who also watched the plane land at the shopping center.

That's what the plane's pilot, Greg Mahler, discovered 10 minutes after taking off from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport.

"I've had a rough engine a few times, but I've never had an engine fully quit," Mahler explained.

A pilot for 30 years and flight instructor for 20, Mahler knew what to do.

"You've taught this scenario before?" Eyewitness News Reporter Emily Longnecker asked Mahler.

"I teach it all the time. It's part of the curriculum," Mahler said.

Sunday afternoon though, was the real thing.

Mahler brought the plane down in the parking lot of the shopping center, walking away without a scratch.

"I thought, 'Thank you, Lord. All is safe. The plane's got some damage, but I'm ok and everyone on the ground's ok,' " said Mahler.

"It's a miracle really. I don't know how he did it," said Ron Watson.

"A couple of the guys were hugging me, the passers by here, saying, 'Oh, you're ok,'" Mahler said.

Just down the road, 15 minutes away, Mahler's wife was waiting for him to land at the Eagle Creek Airport. Instead, she got a phone call from her husband saying he had landed somewhere else.

"I could hear all the fanfare in the background," said Marianne Mahler.

"He goes, 'I'm ok. I'm ok.' And he says, 'I crashed the plane. I'm ok. The planes totaled. Come get me,'" Mahler's wife explained.

So that's just Marianne Mahler did.

"My heart is like, my it's just pounding. I'm so relieved," she said.

So is Greg Mahler who says he won't let it stop him from flying again.

"Flying is my obsession. I love to fly," said Mahler.

No injuries on the ground were reported.