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'Forced landing'

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Fort Smith (Aug 19/02) - What should a pilot do when his engine fails?

For some, it might seem like an opportune time to panic, but Fort Smith pilot Alan Loutitt kept his cool when he had to make an emergency landing Aug. 9 north of Fort Smith.

However, instead of a runway, the landing area was a forest. "I flew the plane into the trees under control," Loutitt explains, rejecting any suggestion he crashed.

Instead, he describes it as a "forced landing."

Loutitt and his passenger walked away without injury.

The incident took place on Aug. 9 about 240 kilometres northeast of Fort Smith. The Cessna 206 had just taken off from Hurricane Lake, and had climbed to under 300 metres when the engine failed.

"It just cut out, and I couldn't get it started again," says Loutitt.

Looking around for a place to land, he could see no water. So he had to land the floatplane in the trees, which he estimates were about 50 or 60 feet high.

Gliding the plane, Loutitt says he slowed it to under 90 km/h per hour before landing.

Loutitt notes there were burned-over areas below the plane, but the trees were broken and at various angles. He decided the chances of a safe landing were better by going into straight-up, unburned trees.

"We went in just like a bulldozer," he says.

The plane's floats and wings pushed the trees back as the plane came to a stop with the floats actually touching the ground.

The pilot praised his passenger, Erv Allen, for staying cool as the plane was going down. "He never showed any fear."

The plane was chartered by Allen's employer, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, for a land-use inspection.

Once on the ground, Loutitt contacted Fort Smith on a satellite phone and a helicopter was dispatched to pick up the two men.

They had to make a clearing in the trees for the helicopter to land.

Loutitt, 62, has been flying for over 40 years and says he learned a lot from old bush pilots.

"They all taught me a little bit, and it helped."

Plus, he says it always helps to have some luck.

An investigation into the incident, specifically why the engine cut out, will be conducted by the federal Transportation Safety Board.