A small plane that left Washington Dulles International Airport on Friday ended up landing on a Virginia highway shortly after takeoff.
Dulles officials identified the plane on X, formerly Twitter, as Southern Airways Express Flight 246. Southern Airways is a small commuter airline based out of Florida, and its 246 route runs from Dulles to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
The plane was a Cessna Caravan, which typically has a maximum of nine passengers, excluding the pilot and co-pilot. Flight 246 was carrying seven passengers, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency said in a statement Thursday that it is investigating the incident.
Stan Little, the chief executive of Southern Airways, told HuffPost in an email that no crew or passengers were hurt but gave no indication of the cause of the landing.
“We are relieved to report there were no injuries, and all passengers are safe and sound,” Little said. “We are thankful to our pilots, who did exactly what they were trained to do ― to put the safety of our passengers first. We are working closely with the authorities to thoroughly investigate the situation, and we will take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety and security of our passengers and our fleet.”
The sight of a plane sitting in the middle of Loudoun County Parkway, snarling traffic, was a highly unusual one for Northern Virginia. The Virginia Department of Transportation posted on X that “there is in fact a small plane in the roadway and blocking all lanes.”
According to data from FlightAware, the plane took off at 12:45 p.m. and flew for only two minutes before landing.
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) January 19, 2024
In October, HuffPost published a story detailing serious safety concerns among pilots who recently quit Southern Airways.
The airline’s pilots have to enter into “training repayment agreements” when they accept their jobs, signing promissory notes that put them on the hook for up to $20,000 if they resign before flying for a certain duration. Southern Airways has recently sued dozens of pilots for quitting, taking them to small claims court in Florida.
HuffPost spoke to roughly 20 pilots who said they left in large part out of concerns over the airline’s safety and maintenance practices.
“There’s a lot of pressure to get passengers where they’re going, in potentially questionable weather or with questionable maintenance,” one pilot, Nate Hilliard, told HuffPost last year. “People are pressured to go, and they don’t have the experience you’d find on larger jet flight decks.”
It’s not clear yet if Friday’s weather played a role in the plane’s quick landing. Much of the Washington area was subject to a winter storm warning until 7 p.m. Friday. Nearly four inches of snow had fallen in nearby Centreville, Virginia by noon.