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Canadian pilot lands plane on Meeker County, Minn., highway, fixes engine, takes off again

LITCHFIELD -- A Canadian pilot safely landed his Cessna 172 on a State Highway 24 in Meeker County Tuesday evening, then fixed an engine problem and flew on his way.

According to a news release from Meeker County Sheriff Jeff Norlin, a 911 call reported that an airplane had landed on the highway around 5:30 p.m. northeast of Litchfield.

Deputies arrived to find the single-engine plane parked in a field approach north of the intersection with County Road 34.

The pilot, Donald Rennie, 59, of Alberta, Canada, told the officers that he and his two passengers, Ernest Novakowski, 66, and Gerald Richard, 74, also from Alberta, had left the Rochester airport and were heading to the Alexandria airport when the engine of the airplane started to backfire and lose power causing the airplane to lose altitude. Rennie said that he didn't think that it was safe to fly over the populated areas of Litchfield to attempt to make it to the Litchfield Airport as he didn't think that the airplane would make it that far.

Rennie made the decision to land the airplane on State Highway 24. Once the airplane was safely on the ground, the three men discovered that the fuel in the airplane had water in it. They were able to drain the water and get the plane to run correctly.

After the Federal Aviation Administration was contacted, it was determined that the airplane was cleared to take off from the roadway. Deputies and the Minnesota State Patrol blocked the roadway so the airplane could take off.

No damage was done to the airplane, the roadway, or any vehicles. Nobody was injured as a result of the incident.