The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

November 18, 2013

Pilot billed $3,000 for landing on toll road

CENTERVILLE — The pilot of a small vintage plane who made an emergency landing on a western Pennsylvania toll road has been billed nearly $3,000 by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, over and above $1,000 he initially paid for the plane to be towed from the scene.

Brian Nicholson, of Upper Speers, believes much of the bill is unnecessary because he had a mechanic prepared to replace the plane’s damaged propeller so he could fly away.

“I find this appalling,” Nicholson said in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report. “We’re trained as pilots to make a decision in emergency situations and not to second-guess those decisions.”

Nicholson landed on the Mon-Fayette Expressway about 11 a.m. Aug. 5, a Monday, when a chunk of the wooden propeller broke off the 1946 Universal Stinson airplane he was flying with a friend. The friend is also a pilot and teaches school with Nicholson and nearby Brownsville High School.

Nicholson dodged electric power lines and highway signs, and landed between a car and a tractor-trailer. “We didn’t damage the highway, any vehicles or the plane,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson contends he summoned a mechanic who could have replaced the propeller in minutes, enabling him to take off from the road. But he said turnpike officials wouldn’t let him touch the plane. After charging him $1,000 to tow the plane from the scene, he later got a bill for $2,993.34 to cover the labor of workers used to remove the plane from the road, Nicholson said.

The turnpike commission issued a statement saying the decision to prevent Nicholson from taking off again was made due to “customer safety” and because it would have cost more money to close the road in both directions to allow for the takeoff.

“It is standard practice for the turnpike to seek reparations after an incident that necessitates involvement of our personnel. How we’re handling this is no different than how we handle similar accidents involving a car or truck, and it’s comparable to processes used by other highway operators,” the commission said in a statement.

Nicholson thinks that’s wrong because the situation was “an emergency, and someone was going to die if the right decision wasn’t made.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State News
  • PennDOT contractor arraigned on $3.6M theft charge

    A Department of Transportation contractor stole $3.6 million in public funds by billing the state for work that was never done, state prosecutors said Thursday in what they described as an ongoing corruption probe of PennDOT’s southeastern Pennsylvania district.

    July 31, 2014

  • Police: Women stole thousands from elderly sisters, used money to show St. Bernards

    Two western Pennsylvania women have been charged with stealing thousands of dollars from two elderly sisters and using the money to attend dog shows.

    July 29, 2014

  • Intervening neighbor’s death now ruled homicide

    The Allegheny County medical examiner says a neighbor who died after he intervened in a fight between a couple next door is the victim of homicide.

    July 29, 2014

  • Housing police: Naked women slashes 3 in melee

    Allegheny County Housing Authority police were trying to identify a naked woman who allegedly slashed or stabbed three other women in an apparent lovers’ quarrel at a public housing complex.

    July 29, 2014

  • Police: Rescued boys never mentioned drowned teen

    Police say two teens who were rescued from a jetty in Presque Isle Bay in Erie last week, and two others who were with them, never mentioned a fifth boy who drowned and whose body wasn’t found until Saturday.

    July 29, 2014

  • 2 arraigned, denied bail in deadly Philly carjacking

    Two men accused of carjacking a woman in north Philadelphia and plowing into a family selling fruit on a street corner, killing three children, have been ordered held without bail.

    July 29, 2014

  • PennDOT pushes ‘Yellow Dot’ vehicle stickers

    It’s the car sticker that could save your life.
    PennDOT’s “Yellow Dot” program has been around for several years, said Daniel Zakraysek, coordinator of the Cambria Allegheny Regional Highway Safety Network.

    July 28, 2014

  • Remembering elephant’s rampage

    The circus elephant paced the landing outside the Jaffa Mosque in Altoona.
    Police formed an uneasy line around the perimeter of the venue’s lawn, rifles at the ready.
    It was a cloudy, cold day in April 1993, and Tyke the elephant had just run around the circus ring, slapped a baboon and burst through a building’s front door, tearing off part of the wall above the door.

    July 28, 2014

  • State briefs 7/29/2014

    July 28, 2014

  • TSA finds gun, ammo in Pittsburgh airport carry-on

    The Transportation Security Administration says it found a pistol and ammunition in man’s carry-on bag as he passed through security at Pittsburgh International Airport.

    July 28, 2014


Do you think pet obituaries should be included with death notices?

Yes, my pet is considered a member of the family.
No, pet obituaries are inappropriate.
Pet obituaries should be placed on a different page in the newspaper.
     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads