Planes land in hot water on frozen Lake Calhoun

Landing on Lake Calhoun
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A Minneapolis police officer and two FAA officials walked out onto a frozen Lake Calhoun to talk with two pilots who had landed their small airplanes on the lake Monday afternoon.

Photo: Jennifer Simonson, Star Tribune

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Two pilots landed small airplanes on frozen Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis and left the aircraft there as they walked away for lunch Monday afternoon, then were ticketed and had to wait a few hours before federal officials cleared them for takeoff.

Park Police Capt. Robert Goodsell said that the two single-engine planes were parked on very thick ice on the north end of the urban lake, and both pilots had been ticketed for landing in a city park without a permit. The planes touched down about noon on one of Minneapolis' most famous bodies of water, Goodsell said.

"The pilots are cooperative... and contrite," Goodsell said. "[They] didn't know we had ordinance against that. They were very apologetic."

Pilot Hans Meyer, of Burnsville, said he and his friend, Mike Doherty, of Le Sueur, Minn., checked with federal and state regulations and the Minneapolis city website to ensure that the landing was legal. "It was a beautiful winter day, and we wanted to see downtown," Meyer said about his choice of lakes. "It was only until we came back from lunch that we found the police weren't on board with it."

They took off about 3:45 p.m. after local officials had consulted with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Tom Hatch said that the spectacle of two airplanes on the lake outside his office caught his attention.

"I looked out my office window and saw three Minneapolis squad cars pulled up ... on the north end of Calhoun," Hatch said. "As I walked out of my office, I saw the two single-engine aircraft with skis parked on the lake.

"I went across Lake Street and asked the officers if this was a planned event, and they said it was not and landing on a Minneapolis lake is not allowed without approval." Hatch added that the officer said he had never seen such a thing in his 30-plus years on he force.

One of the planes, a 64-year-old Aeronca 7AC, is registered to Doherty's father, Joseph G. Doherty of Le Sueur. Meyer's plane -- a Champion 7FC -- is registered out of the Stillwater area, Goodsell said.

City ordinance says that the landing or taking off of aircraft of any kind is prohibited from park land without first receiving a permit. Goodsell said the city would never grant such a permit unless it were for a special event.

He said that while landings on lakes in cities as close as Plymouth or White Bear Lake might be common, planes using lakes as runways in Minneapolis cause too much disruption with traffic and pedestrians.

--Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

--Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788

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Landing on Lake Calhoun