Airplane, car collide on northern Minnesota highway

A pilot is always looking down and asking him or herself, “If my engine quits, where am I going to land?”

Usually it’s a field, but sometimes it’s a highway, which then requires another question, “Can I land slowly enough that I don’t catch up to cars?”

David Gowan , 57, of Minot, N.D., piloting a Mooney airplane, picked a highway near the Hawley, Minn., airport this morning after the engine quit.

But his plane caught up to a car.

Those slash marks are a propeller work. It can’t be overstated how close the driver — Corey Ernst, 39, of Fargo — came to being killed.

Here’s the official report:

A single engine private plane took off from the Hawley airport heading west with Minot, ND being a destination. At about 1000 feet, the engine quit and the pilot had to turn and find an emergency landing spot.

Passenger in the plane along with the pilot located a clear spot on Highway 10 eastbound at MP 19. The plane made a successful emergency landing on Highway 10 eastbound. The Ford Fusion was eastbound on Highway 10 in front of the plane.

After the plane landed, it caught up to the Fusion. The driver noticed a plane behind her in her mirror as it was catching up to the car. The plane prop struck the rear of the driver’s side before she could drive into the ditch. No injuries were reported, and the plane was pushed off the roadway into a residential driveway.

The NTSB and FAA are investigating. The FAA inspector from Fargo is already on-scene. The State Patrol was assisted by Clay County Sheriff’s Department, Hawley Police Department, and the FAA.

Sometimes, it works out a little better as with this World War II-era plane that had to land on busy Highway 41 in Oshkosh, Wis., back in 2007.

The pilot in today’s incident didn’t have much time to make decisions, certainly not as much time as this pilot in Canada had in 2011.

By the way, you may be wondering why the prop was still turning enough to slash through a car if there was no engine running to turn it. The speed of the plane through the air allows the prop to “windmill” even if there’s no engine.

  • Postal Customer
    • joetron2030

      Man all mighty!

    • jane

      Those slash marks look like gills making the back end look shark-like.

      • Jeff

        Perfect for a Barracuda!

  • jon

    “By the way, you may be wondering why the prop was still turning enough to slash through a car if there was no engine running to turn it. ”

    That is exactly what I was thinking. Must have some impressive force behind it to keep slashing 10 times through the car…

    • Three blades so it looks like only about 1 1/2 revolutions once it started its work.

      I’ve seen that slash pattern one other time. Oshkosh 2006. An RV airplane waiting to takeoff in a long line on the taxiway, a TBM Avenger taxiing up behind him. The pilot couldn’t see over the nose. It wasn’t pretty.

      • joetron2030


  • joetron2030

    My parents live just south of the Anoka County Airport (is it still called that?) up in Blaine. In the time that I was living there (a bit over 20 years) I can’t recall any plane crashes. Though, I vaguely recall one happening off in the woods to the south and east of the airport. But, my recollection may be faulty on that point.

  • Bonnie

    How fast was the plane going, could she have outrun it if she knew it was landing behind her? I just want to make sure I know how to react if I see a plane in my rear view mirror, hit the gas or take chances with the ditch. 😉

    • I”ll have to look up a Mooney’s stall speed but usually a plane that size would be going no faster than 60-65 at touchdown. And they have brakes.

    • Jim

      Don’t panic and stop in front of the plane if traffic allows. Landing speed is around 65, and a small plane’s brakes are not as strong as a car’s. They’re not as maneuverable on the ground, either.

  • Anna

    This reminds me of scene from “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade” when a German Spitz flies into the tunnel and Harrison Ford and Sean Connery are driving along side it in a Deusenberg.

    I don’t think even a Maserati could have outrun that plane.

    Nothing quite like being in a real life, near death experience, eh?