No one was injured Monday when a plane struck a car after the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing on a city street near the Watertown Municipal Airport.
According to Jeff Baum, president of Wisconsin Aviation Inc., two pilots were flying a four-seat, single-engine 1976 Piper Arrow just northwest of Watertown when the engine suffered a catastrophic engine failure and covered the plane’s windshield with oil.
The aircraft, which was being piloted by Kevin Loppnow, 25, of Oconomowoc, then flew back to Watertown Municipal Airport to land. James Clausen, 60, of Lake Geneva, was a passenger in the plane.
“As they got down to the point of making a landing, there was another airplane on the end of the runway,” said Baum, who also serves as the manager of the local airport. “The windshield was totally covered in oil — he had no forward visibility at all — and as he came up on Twelfth Street, the engine was dead and he saw that he had a pretty clear shot on Twelfth Street. So, he elected to land there.”
Loppnow was able to successfully land the plane on South Twelfth Street near Boomer Street, but before the aircraft came to a complete stop it rear-ended a vehicle being operated by Darlene DePover, 63, of 810 Clyman St. Loppnow, Clausen and DePover were not injured in the crash.
“The way I understand it is, the pilot came down to land on Twelfth Street, but he was still traveling fairly fast,” said Capt. Robert Kaminski of the Watertown Police Department. “There was a vehicle going north on Twelfth Street and basically what happened — according to the pilot — was he was traveling faster and the vehicle was traveling slower, so he ended up catching the vehicle and striking it in the back end.”
Following the accident, the plane, which is owned by Wisconsin Aviation Inc., was moved to the airport. Baum said the Federal Administration Agency will be coming to the airport today to conduct an investigation on the accident. The Watertown Fire Department also assisted at the scene.
Baum said Loppnow and Clausen were doing some flight training when the engine had failed.
“The engine failure was the cause of what happened,” Baum said. “It’s not something you see very often, but it was a catastrophic engine failure.
“As pilots, one of the things we always do is we train and we train and we train for emergency situations, however unlikely they are to happen,” he added. “But we never know how well our training is going to do, and we hope we never have to use it. But obviously, in this case, the instructor — he was a well-experienced instructor — did a great job. His training kicked in, he did what he was supposed to do, everybody was safe, he brought the plane down and the plane will fly again.”