The pilot of a small airplane that crash landed near Wheeling's Chicago Executive Airport Tuesday night reported a problem to the tower just before it crashed a half-mile short of the airport, according to airport officials.
Airport Manager Dennis Rouleau said the Beechcraft Super King Air 200 was approaching the airport from the north at about 8:30 p.m. when it experienced trouble and landed instead on Wolf Road.
Rouleau believes the pilot's quick-thinking saved lives.
"To develop a problem and then put it down on the road instead -- it could have been a lot worse," Rouleau said. "It could have been in some buildings, but he was able to put it down on the street to avoid injuries to himself and people on the ground."
The plane touched down on Wolf Road and the prop struck the ground before the right wing struck a tree in the parkway, spinning it around near the intersection of Wolf and Hintz roads, Rouleau said.
"There was a fair amount of damage, but for what he did, the airplane was pretty intact for landing short of the runway," he said. "He did a spectacular job of avoiding homes and cars."
The pilot -- the plane's only occupant -- was initially up and walking around the scene, Rouleau said, but he was transported to Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview with minor injuries.
Based out of Clarksville, Tenn., the plane is registered to Tennair LLC. It had a planned stop at Chicago Executive Airport and appeared to experience trouble while in the process of landing.
The plane's final resting place was directly between two condominium complexes, said Nick Helmer, mayor of Prospect Heights.
"It would have been a disaster," Helmer said. "Actually what happened was a Godsend. I think we're very fortunate to have an airplane accident that was a walkaway situation. It's very fortunate that nobody was hurt -- either on the ground or those in the air."
The FAA was expected to conduct its initial investigation late Tuesday evening before the plane was to be transported to the airport.
The runway the plane had planned to land on remained closed throughout the night to avoid conflict with emergency responders and media in the area, Rouleau said.