Wildfire haze a factor in July 8 plane landing on I-88

The plane that made a July 8 emergency landing on I-88 had first tried to land at the Aurora Municipal Airport in Sugar Grove, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

But haze from Canadian wildfires delayed its landing, and the plane experienced engine and propeller failures while waiting, according to the report.

The Knight-Wilcox VariEze experimental airplane left Waukegan National Airport, flying under visual flight rules, intending to land at the Aurora airport.

The pilot told investigators he contacted the air-traffic control center at Aurora as he was descending and preparing to land. He was told the airport was operating under instrument flight rules, due to low visibility and haze.

The pilot requested a special VFR clearance, but that was denied as the airport had an inbound IFR flight to handle, according to the report.

While holding outside of Aurora's airspace, on a reduced power setting, the pilot reduced the plane's fuel-mixture control. Its engine then lost all power and the plane's propeller also stopped rotating.

The pilot started a steep dive to pick up speed, get the propeller to rotate and the engine to start. However, when the propeller didn't start rotating, at about 300 feet off the ground, the pilot determined he had to land, and the best place was the interstate.

He glided over several cars and maneuvered for an opening. The right wing hit a vehicle in the far right lane. The plane spun in to the grass median.

The report indicates the engine was tested after the landing, and no engine anomalies were noted. The test could not determine why the propeller didn't rotate during the dive.

The haze that day was caused by smoke from wildfires in Canada. The sky was milky-white from the smoke.

Why the sky has been so hazy

Small plane crashes on I-88 in Kane County, clips a truck

Probes of plane accidents continue

  Haze caused by smoke from Canadian wildfires blowing over the upper Midwest was visible along I-88 west of Elburn on July 8. Paul Valade/
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