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Pilot recounts story behind 2017 emergency landing near Kennebec Cafe, west of Durango

Rob Flannery came down on County Road 124 before pulling into a parking lot
A pilot made an emergency landing in a single-engine airplane Tuesday morning in the parking lot at Kennebec Café, 12 miles west of Durango. The pilot, who apparently experienced engine failure, made a safe landing and was uninjured.
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It was just an average day soaring through the sky for private pilot Rob Flannery.

That is until an engine failure forced him to emergency land his 8A Luscombe fixed-wing plane Oct. 10, 2017, on County Road 124 near Kennebec Cafe, 12 miles west of Durango.

After nearly seven years, Flannery discussed the incident in an interview with The Durango Herald.

Flying at about 12,000 feet, Flannery said he realized he needed to make an emergency landing after his engine stalled. He looked down to see nothing but power lines shrouding a possible landing area.

After debating landing the plane somewhere along U.S. Highway 160, Flannery decided his best option was aim for County Road 124, which accesses the La Plata Mountains. He landed on the county road heading southbound at about 40 mph.

After touching ground, Flannery was able to slow the plane to about 20 mph but had to negotiate trees on both sides of the road.

“There's this cottonwood tree that (I thought) I'm not going to get through,” he said. “And it was like Jesus was sitting in the right seat when one of the smaller branches on the cottonwood tree caught the nav light,” Flannery said.

The plane’s nav light was shattered but somehow the wing was unharmed by the emergency landing.

The plane’s wing also just missed a caution sign along the road, and Flannery coasted down the highway before maneuvering the plane into the Kennebec Cafe parking lot.

Rob Flannery made an emergency landing on Oct. 10, 2017, and came to a stop in the parking lot at Kennebec Café, 12 miles west of Durango. (Durango Herald file)

He remembers the reaction he received from patrons when they saw the aircraft arrive.

“It was really funny because people came out of the woodwork,” he said.

His intention was to fix the plane right there but when he realized that he had a crowd, it deterred him. He also realized he wasn’t going to be able to repair the plane on the spot anyway.

“I was trying to get the hell out of there so when the cops showed up with questions, I wouldn't be there,” he said, explaining he was worried about getting in trouble for landing on a county road. “They never did show up. Why? Because it's legal and I was in the parking lot.”

Despite the 2017 incident, Flannery said flying is safer than riding a motorcycle.


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