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Crippled Cessna Makes a Landing

Aired August 27, 2001 - 13:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The plane outside of Fort Worth, Texas, it looks like it's trying to make another attempt to land without landing gear.

Miles O'Brien is with us, he is a pilot, and a correspondent for CNN.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Perfect.

ALLEN: It looks like the plane came down just fine, as our expert predicted earlier. Let's see what happens now.

And they're fine. And they're out. Instructor/pilot and his student, they are two men as we can see now.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

ALLEN: They've been circling for two hours. Once they realized they had stuck landing gear, and atta-boy handshake, you betcha, on this one. Again, this is at Meachem Field, Fort Worth, Texas. That's where this plane is registered out at, a 16-year-old plane.

And Miles O'Brien, what can you tell us about what they were going through up there as they brought this down?

O'BRIEN: Well, what you just saw was textbook. You know, John King a moment ago said the pilot might be a little embarrassed. I think he can point to that landing with some pride, having seen the entire nation watching him do that. He did exactly what he was supposed to.

As you look at this replay. He's coming down, he's trying to get the plane as slow as possible, that means the flaps, the controlling surfaces on the trailing edge of the wing, are in their lowest position. That means the plane is flying, let's say, at about 60 knots, which is a slow speed, maybe about 70 miles an hour. Not a lot of speed here.

This is a long runway, a mile and a half long runway there at Meacham Field. And as he brought it in, he wanted to get it -- really do what you would do in a normal landing, except for one thing - you don't have wheels there, of course. Go down a little farther, but get the plane. Notice how he slowed it up there. He slowed it up, and very, very gently brought it down at about the slowest possible speed that plane would continue flying without dropping out of the sky.

Then, as you see, they had the doors already opened.

ALLEN: The propeller stopped immediately.

O'BRIEN: It did, because they did what I was talking about a little bit earlier, which was they pulled the mixture adjustment on the throttle, which reduces the fuel, it eliminates the amount of fuel going into the carburetor. That shuts the engine down very quickly, and I'd be willing to bet you, given what I saw there, that they had turned off their electrical system as well. All of that meant to reduce the possibility of a fire, and you obviously want the engine shut when you do that.

And as we have been telling you, they've been flying around and around there, draining off fuel. Once again, as a precaution. As you know, the fuel is up in the wings there. So the risk in this case is very minimal that there'd be any sort of problem, because the wings weren't, of course, scraping the ground as the plane came down.

But, I would say the student/pilot in this case got a lot more than he bargained for. It would be interesting to see how much the instructor will charge him for this bit of instruction he got today.

ALLEN: Certainly he gets a buy today on the fee.

O'BRIEN: I would say so.

ALLEN: About how fast is it traveling, for those of us who don't fly, Miles?

O'BRIEN: I'm going to guess that the approach speed is around 55 to 60 knots. You add about 10 percent or so to get miles per hour. So in the neighborhood of 65 to 75 -- 70 miles an hour there. Actually, probably right at that moment there he probably got it down a little slower than that, even with the flaps fully extended, and brought it down and literally stalled the airplane right at that moment.

So that's exactly what you're supposed to do. The doors were ajar, they got out in a hurry like you're supposed to, and -- it will be an interesting thing to see how they sign this all off in the student's log book.

ALLEN: Miles O'Brien, thanks. We're going to talk more about it now.

WATERS: Natalie, I'm watching some pictures from alongside -- apparently -- can we take that picture of the traffic? Apparently, it tied up traffic alongside, and they're just pulling out now that the show is over. But in addition to national television, this pilot has come down to the thrill and the delight of hundreds and hundreds of motorists, who stopped to pull over to watch this spectacle. And John King is back on the line. And don't you just love it when you are right, John?

JOHN KING, AVIATION EXPERT: Well, it's just working the odds in your favor, Lou.

WATERS: So, will you give this guy an atta-boy for this landing?

KING: Oh, you bet. You know it sounds like he did everything right, and all he had to do was read the manual, it was right in front of him. He got the book out and looked to see what he was supposed to do, and did it.

WATERS: You know, I am not a pilot, I just look at this from a viewers' standpoint, but I wonder why they wouldn't land in the grass instead of on concrete runway.

KING: Well, the grass actually tends to snag you, and you run more a risk of flipping upside down on your back on the grass, than you would on the runway.

WATERS: Oh, OK.

KING: And you're really not concerned about damage to the aircraft, you're really concerned about just doing whatever is necessary to make it as safe as possible for the pilots.

WATERS: OK. What are these crews doing around the plane now that we are watching? Or, we're watching the landing again, but there are crews with the long hoses coming from some bit of equipment here.

KING: Well, there's people at the airport paid to be concerned about the idea of a fire. If you do something as spectacular as land on a runway with the gear up there, it gives them the opportunity to go out there and do their thing. So, they're going to be quick out there. The chances of fire are very, very minimal.

But they are out there doing their thing, because that's what they are paid to do.

WATERS: So, is this plane totaled now?

KING: Probably, yes. As I have mentioned earlier, this is a financial consideration and that's really the major thing. Probably, this airplane is going to be more expensive to repair than it would be worth.

WATERS: Well, so this is a bad day for the insurance company; it's a good day for the instructor and the student/pilot though. The plane is safely down.

John King, thanks for your help, Miles O'Brien. We got it down, Natalie.

ALLEN: They just went by the manual. John makes it sound like it's just standard procedure. No big deal. For those of us sitting here sweating, it's a little bit different. Thanks, John.

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