Flying to Atlanta-Fulton County Airport from Huntsville, Alabama, Southern Airways Flight 242 with 81 passengers and 4 crew members entered a severe thunderstorm south of Rome, Georgia on April_4, 1977. Captain William McKenzie, 54, of La Place, Louisiana, reported that the left engine of the DC-9 had flamed out. Air traffic controllers advised him to try landing at Dobbins Air Force Base.
When his right engine flamed out a minute later McKenzie realized he could not make it to Dobbins and asked for the nearest airport. Controllers gave him Cartersville coordinates, but McKenzie realized he would not make that either. At this point in time he indicated he would attempt to land his plane on a roadway.
McKenzie was trying to restart the engines as his first officer attempted to land the plane on Georgia Highway 92 in rural Paulding County west of Atlanta.
New Hope Fire Chief John Clayton, who made it to the scene before the plane landed describe the incident - "Then the pilot, William McKenzie, made a perfect landing dead center on Highway 92 in New Hope." The plane held the road for approximately 300 yards, disintegrating as it went, but the road was too narrow and the wings clipped gasoline pumps, the chain link fence outside an elementary school and pine trees. (It was later reported that the copilot had made the landing). Clayton reported seeing bodies flying out of the fuselage.
As it landed the plane struck a grocery store owned by Charles Newman. He and his wife were in the store where they were unharmed. Outside the store their daughter and two grandchildren were 3 of the 7 victims killed on the ground in the crash. One eyewitness, Rudy Rackley, said the plane "landed on the road but skidded sideways." A stewardess ran up to Rackley yelling "Get them out, get them out."
Bodies were transported from the crash site to a warehouse in Dallas, Georgia.
A Southern Airways jet had turned around earlier in the day because of bad weather in the same area.