Accident at LF Airport considered an ‘incident’ not a ‘crash’

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

A small private plane lost power April 25, while landing. As it glided down about 6:30 p.m., one of its wheels clipped a gate located on the north end of the airport.

While the police report called it a “crash,” others said it was simply an “incident.”

“He just lost all power in the airplane and when you lose all power you come down,” said Little Falls/Morrison County (LFMC) Airport Manager Tom Olson.

Olson said the gate was less than five feet off the ground, and if the plane had been six inches to a foot higher, the pilot would have missed the gate and landed fine.

“We flipped the airplane back over and towed it back to the hanger,” he said. The plane was intact and the passengers received minor injuries. Olson said the plane was a “little air coupe — top speed probably 80 miles an hour,” he said.

Wayne Brutger of Little Falls was the pilot and with him, passenger, Todd Eich, 45, of St. Cloud. Both received minor injuries.

“I maybe have a quarter of an inch scratch on my nose and Todd had scratches on his hand,” said Brutger, who has been flying for 40 years, and didn’t consider the scratches “minor injuries” or a big deal.

“If you fall off a bicycle you are more injured,” he said.

Brutger, 61, made a meeting at 8:30 a.m. the next day. Two days later, he flew to Arizona and went back to work.

“I was probably doing 45 when it happened — that’s hardly moving,” said Brutger. “We hooked the fence and flipped.”

Brutger compared it to a car getting a flat tire and flipping into the ditch. “What’s the big deal. Someone going through a windshield would have been hurt more,” he said.

Pilots that fly in and out of the LFMC Airport are in planes that travel at maximum 100 – 120 miles per hour (mph). When the planes land, they are typically traveling at 40 – 50 mph.

“The fastest plane out here goes about 120 (mph),” said Olson.

“If I go downhill I can maybe get it to 100,” Brutger said of his plane.

Olson said it was not a “plane crash” but rather an “incident” and no different than a car accident.

Brutger compared the incident to someone backing their car into another car in a parking lot. “It’s the same thing,” he said.

“People have a lot of misconceptions about an aircraft versus an automobile,” said Olson. “The media makes it scarier to people.”

Olson said flying is much safer than driving.

“Airplanes don’t go any faster than cars, unless they are commercial jets or military aircraft,” said Olson.

In the last 14 years that Olson has managed the airport, there has been one accident — no one was hurt — “And that’s over 1 million miles,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was in Little Falls Monday to investigate.

Tuesday, Brutger said the FAA called to tell him a cable on the throttle had broken causing the plane to go into idle, resulting in the loss of control. He was told by the FAA that no one could have prevented the incident or detected the problem during a pre-flight check.

The media, he said, made a mountain out of a mole hill.