With the engine sputtering and his plane losing altitude, pilot Keith Mazzarella caught sight yesterday of a unusual runway signal: a green traffic light.
Three lanes of traffic on Route 37 in Toms River began to move forward just in time as the Citabria plane swooped in, and the pilot pulled in just behind the cars.
Mazzarella’s banner-towing plane miraculously did not hit any of the 60 or so vehicles in front on him, Dover Township police said. And the pilot managed to fly between power lines only 100 feet apart.
“How (the plane) missed the wires is unbelievable,” Dover Police Chief Michael Mastronardy said.
The aircraft had been towing a banner for Toms River Auto Mall on Route 37. It was headed for a fly-by over the business before buz zing over the coastline from Seaside Heights to Sandy Hook, the pilot said.
The plane ended up intact on the lawn of an IHOP restaurant near Hooper Avenue, though the advertising banner it had been towing caught on the power line and caused it to fishtail.
In what authorities characterize as a bizarre coincidence, a Piper plane also towing a banner had mechanical trouble and was forced to land on a school soccer field two hours earlier.
The two emergency landings took place just miles away from one another.