LITCHFIELD, Maine — A small Maine Warden Service plane made an emergency landing on the Maine Turnpike in Litchfield on Friday morning after it reportedly ran out of fuel, according to the Maine Turnpike Authority.
A little over two hours later, after the plane was refueled and police stopped traffic, the plane safely took off using the highway as a runway.
Although a turnpike authority official initially reported that the airplane ran out of fuel, Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration working out of Washington, D.C., said that the Cessna 172 experienced a mechanical problem.
Bergen said the FAA will investigate the incident.
The single-engine plane piloted by Dan Dufault of the Maine Warden Service landed around 9 a.m. in the northbound lanes of the highway. The aircraft was moved off the road and parked at the old Litchfield service plaza near mile 98 within a few minutes.
Doug Rafferty, director of public information for the Maine Warden Service, said Dufault and his passenger, biologist Charlie Todd, were flying from Belfast to the Lewiston-Auburn area to do research on eagles.
The plane, a Cessna 172 manufactured in 1968, is one of four owned by the warden service, Rafferty said. The aircraft was flown to Augusta by Warden Service Chief Pilot Durward Humphrey for an inspection.
“We are very happy that things turned out as well as they did,” Rafferty said, adding with a laugh that the plane did not possess an E-ZPass tag.
Rafferty said Dufault was off for the rest of the day and was unavailable for comment.
Maine Turnpike Authority public relations manager Dan Morin said traffic was never in any danger.
“It could’ve caused a traffic problem had it not been near that service plaza,” Morin said.
The warden service’s top officer, Col. Joel Wilkinson, told The Associated Press that the incident will be investigated.