A pilot from the Steinbach area flying a twin-engine plane was forced to make an emergency landing July 11 in a soybean field near Taylorville, Illinois, about 40 minutes southeast of Springfield.
A distress call came out at 11:50 a.m. about a plane in trouble, said Taylorville Police Chief Dwayne Wheeler.
The pilot of the Piper PA-31 Navajo, Kelly Friesen, landed in the field. The lone occupant in the plane, he did not sustain any injuries. Friesen is the president of Imperial Metal Industries, based in Blumenort.
Friesen was bound for Ste Anne, Manitoba, after being in Florida for a month, said Andy Goodall, the manager of the Taylorville Municipal Airport.
The pilot was attempting to refuel at the Taylorville airport.
Goodall said crews were able to tow the plane out of the field Monday. Crews used a tractor to tow the plane to the side of the road, where it was being transported to the airport, Goodall said.
Goodall said that the pilot's landing gear was down, but the pilot was getting a signal on his control panel that it "wasn't locked into place."
Goodall said Friesen circled another pilot from the Mid-America Sport Parachute Club and was in communication with the pilot, trying to determine the status of the landing gear.
Goodall said when Friesen was on final approach to the airport, the plane encountered an engine malfunction.
That necessitated Friesen landing the plane in the field, Goodall said.
"It was a run of bad luck, it sounds like," Goodall said. "From what I understand, (Piper Navajos are) pretty reliable planes.
"He did a phenomenal job of putting that plane down, without it rolling or tumbling or anything, especially in a farmer's field."
Friesen spoke to local television station WAND TV and said he ran out of fuel when on final approach.
"When I landed I tried hitting the field but one engine went out and the second one went out about three seconds later," he said. "So I glided in to the soybean field behind us and it was actually not much worse than when we’re landing on a road."
Friesen told the television station it was a soft landing, and said he simply slid to a stop on the wet field.
Goodall said Friesen has had his pilot's license for nine years.
There was some damage to the field, Christian County Sheriff Bruce Kettelkamp said. A deputy told Kettelkamp that it took Friesen 200 to 300 yards to stop the plane.
There were no reports of physical damage to the plane caused by the landing.
Goodall said that officials from the Federal Aviation Administration were on the scene Sunday.
The Navajo was manufactured by Piper from 1967 to 1984. Friesen's plane was built in 1968.
Steven Spearie is a reporter at The State Journal Register, a Springfield Illinois based daily newspaper.