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Pilot protests $3,000 bill for landing on Pennsylvania Turnpike

By Elizabeth Daley

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - A pilot who landed his small plane on a rural stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike after its propeller fell off is protesting a $3,000 bill he received for towing his aircraft from the roadway, saying such fees could cause other pilots to seek out more dangerous emergency landing options.

The pilot, Brian Nicholson, said he and a co-pilot made a snap decision to land on an expressway near California, Pennsylvania, about 36 miles south of Pittsburgh.

"We had only a few minutes before we became a projectile heading toward Earth," Nicholson, a high school teacher from Upper Speers, Pennsylvania, said. He landed the aircraft safely and pulled it off the roadway without injury to anyone.

Renee Vid Colburn, a spokeswoman for The Pennsylvania Turnpike, said airplane landings are uncommon but charges like the one Nicholson incurred are not.

"We treated it like any other accident," Colburn said, explaining that anyone who gets towed from the highway or is assisted by turnpike personnel pays a fee.

What Nicholson is being billed "is nowhere close to the highest fee," she said, recalling a tar spill from 2011 in which the charge topped $50,000.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)

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