Dan Brown, Gulf Islands National Seashore superintendent, said a National Park Service ranger notified him about 8:15 a.m. Thursday that the plane, identified as a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, had landed on the asphalt road near Opal Beach and was parked in the Opal Beach lot.
According to Brown, a student pilot and instructor flying from Milton landed the plane after it began experiencing engine trouble. Nobody was injured and the aircraft was not damaged, he said. Two Rangers were guarding the plane, which is cordoned off in the Opal Beach parking lot, he said, adding that the Federal Aviation Administration is sending investigators to the scene.
According to a witness, the landing was calm.
"It looked perfectly normal," said Adam Siler, who was working in the area at the time the plane landed.
Kevin Murphy, the student who was piloting the plane at the time of the accident, said the airplane lost power somewhere over Navarre. "We didn't have enough power to maintain altitude," he explained, "so we looked for a safe place to set it down."
J. Earle Bowden Way – known as Gulf Boulevard in Navarre Beach and Via de Luna in Pensacola Beach – and the Opal Beach parking lot remain open.
For more on this story, check out the Aug. 26 edition of the Navarre Press, or subscribe online.