A former owner of the Magnetation iron ore processing operations near Grand Rapids, Minn., is uninjured after the plane he was piloting crashed in a Canadian forest last month.
On July 27, Matt Lehtinen, 37, was flying his Cirrus SR-22 from Wabush, Newfoundland and Labrador to Quebec City, Quebec when the plane's engine malfunctioned.
Still 25 miles away from the nearest airport, Lehtinen lowered his plane from 6,000 feet above the ground to about 2,000 feet and began looking for areas away from lakes or mountains that he could put his plane down if he needed to use the aircraft's whole-plane parachute, a feature built into all of Duluth-based Cirrus' planes.
"I then began planning for a parachute deployment ... About five minutes later, the engine quits and she turned into a glider from an airplane," Lehtinen said Thursday, Aug. 8.
Even with the parachute deployed, the plane only took one minute to descend to the ground below. Lehtinen figured he was traveling at 15 mph when the aircraft crashed onto the forest canopy.
"I was probably a few inches away from from being killed by a tree that peeled through the bottom of the airplane," Lehtinen said.
"The tree came so close to injuring me it actually ripped my shorts and gave me this big scrape on my legs," Lehtinen said. "But that was it."
After stepping out of the plane and sending an SOS from his emergency satellite communicator, he took out his iPad and started documenting his experience, from getting bit up by mosquitoes, to lighting a fire so the rescue plane could see him, to the eventual helicopter rescue five hours after the crash.
"I just felt really compelled to start recording to document it, thinking there might be some benefit or some learning that would come out of it for me and for other pilots," Lehtinen said.
In the days after his crash and rescue, Lehtinen edited the footage together into a four-minute video and posted it to YouTube on Aug. 2. By Thursday afternoon, his video had over 284,000 views.
In the days since, Lehtinen has been featured on Inside Edition and written about by numerous Canadian and U.S. news organizations. Fox News' "Fox and Friends" program also reached out to him.
Lehtinen said he was fairly well prepared with gear after the crash, but will carry a two-way radio, better clothes for the weather and bugs and extra water next time he flies.
"I'm already in the market for a new plane," Lehtinen said in another YouTube video posted Saturday.
Lehtinen said it would definitely be another Cirrus, but added that he won't be flying over any remote areas of Canada in a single-engine plane again.
All Cirrus planes are equipped with CAPS, the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System. According to the company’s website, 142 lives have been saved by the parachute system. Meanwhile, “over 100 serious injuries and fatalities could have had different outcomes if the pilot in command of the Cirrus deployed CAPS,” Cirrus said on its website, noting the need for more training.
Lehtinen is currently the president and chief operating officer of Tacora Resources, which is about to reopen the Scully Mine in Wabush. Matt and his father Larry Lehtinen led Magnetation in Minnesota prior to starting Tacora in 2017.
At its peak in 2014, Magnetation had more than 500 employees, but closed its plants and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015 as iron ore prices plummeted.
Lehtinen said he still has a house in Grand Rapids, where Tacora is headquartered but is currently living in Indianapolis.