Thousands of people in and around the central Alberta town of Didsbury were without electricity for about four hours Tuesday after a small plane knocked out power lines.

RCMP say a single-engine Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee was coming in to land at the Olds-Didsbury Airport sometime after 8 p.m. when it flew under the power lines adjacent to Highway 2A.

The wires came in contact with the propeller, wing and tail and broke the windshield.

The pilot and lone occupant, a 59-year-old man from Carstairs, Alta., managed to land without injury.

Crews from the utility company Fortis were called in to restore power.

Large spark and a boom

Staff Sgt. Chad Fournier, an RCMP spokesman, said the pilot couldn't immediately explain how the accident happened.

"After the collision, he did a good job landing the airplane safely," Fournier said Wednesday. "I would assume airplanes colliding with power lines, especially being a small aircraft like this, would have caused a collision."

It's believed the pilot was landing at the airport because he keeps his plane there.

Police initially heard about the accident from a witness who said she was driving on the highway when she spotted a low-flying aircraft come in contact with the lines before she saw a large spark and heard a boom.

Fournier said the wires are the "standard power lines that run along a highway" and that the plane was flying over the road to reach the runway less than half a kilometre away.

Good timing 

Fournier said about 5,000 people live in the Didsbury area and he suggested the collision happened at an opportune time when much of the province was climbing out of a deep freeze.

"With the power outage, it's not the best time of year, but it's definitely a lot warmer than it was before New Year's."

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is involved in the investigation, but there was no immediate word on whether charges will be laid.