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Small plane makes unexpected landing on Alaska Highway in the Yukon

Adam Skrutkowski of Teslin, Yukon, saw this plane sitting at an Alaska Highway rest stop on Tuesday. The owners told him they were forced to land on the highway because of thick smoke in the air. (Adam Skrutkowski - image credit)
Adam Skrutkowski of Teslin, Yukon, saw this plane sitting at an Alaska Highway rest stop on Tuesday. The owners told him they were forced to land on the highway because of thick smoke in the air. (Adam Skrutkowski - image credit)

Yukon's highway rest stops see plenty of cars, trucks and RVs, but airplanes? Not so much.

That's why Adam Skrutkowski was surprised to see a small Cessna plane parked on Tuesday afternoon at a quiet Alaska Highway rest stop at the Lower Rancheria River, between Watson Lake and Teslin.

There was no one to be seen nearby, but Skrutkowski had a solid hunch where the people on board had gone. A few miles back, he had passed a couple walking down the highway. He had noticed they didn't have a rifle with them so they couldn't be hunting, but otherwise had given them little thought — until he saw the plane.

"So I turned around, drove back, caught up to them and spoke to them," Skrutkowski said.

"They mentioned that due to the smoke in the air, which is quite heavy in some areas, they had an emergency landing on the highway."

Skrutkowski said the smoke in the area was indeed bad that day.

"It was a pretty thick in some areas ... I had to wear two masks inside my car, because of the smoke."

The couple told him they were from Alaska and they were flying south. After landing on the highway, they were walking to see if visibility was likely to improve ahead.

"They were walking up the hill to see into the next valley, and I let them know that not much changed between there and towards the Upper Liard," Skrutkowski said.

He asked if the couple needed any help, or a ride, but they told him they'd be fine and were ready to camp out if need be.

"I can almost use the word 'unreasonably calm,'" to describe them, Skrutkowski said.

Christopher Altherr, chair of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association in the Yukon, told CBC News that the highway landing was "unusual."

"That's sort of the last resort, you're not really planning on that," Altherr said.

"[The pilot] probably did the right thing, rather than pushing forwards and causing an accident."

The aircraft, a 1954 Cessna 180, is registered to a business in Anchorage.

CBC News also contacted the Transportation Safety Board and RCMP about the incident, but had not received a response by Wednesday afternoon.