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Pilots all smiles after tense landing

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Two pilots landed successfully after the landing gear on their Beechcraft A-36 Bonanza failed to work during a first landing attempt.

When pilot Britt Knight and flying instructor Kevin Calson attempted to land about 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Southwest Regional Airport, the left, main landing gear on their plane collapsed.

Knight, on an instrument flying training flight, managed to regain altitude and right the gear. The plane landed and the two men walked away from a successful landing.

"We handled the emergency," Calson said, "We did what it took."

What it took were cool heads along with knowledge of the plane and emergency procedures. It could have ended differently.

"The first thing a pilot does is fly the plane," Calson said. "You can deal with emergencies, but you have to fly the plane."

Calson said that if a pilot allows the emergency to distract him from his control of the plane by wondering why it was happening or what was next, that pilot could fly into an obstacle, such as a building.

On the first landing attempt, the instrument lights told Knight his plane's landing gear was engaged but was not functioning correctly.

Knight said he flew by the tower and a tower staffer said his gear was down. They could not tell him whether his gear was locked down, Knight added.

"When we were landing, the right main gear held," Knight said. "The left main gear began to collapse."

On that collapsing feeling, Knight hit the throttle and flew the plane skyward, he said. Circling the airport, Knight put emergency procedures into action.

It took two more cycles of raising the gear and lowering it until it engaged and finally locked, he said. Airport emergency personnel rolled out in a fire truck to meet the plane as a precaution.

The landing was smooth. There were handshakes all around with emergency personnel. The pilots smiled and headed back to their homes in Leesburg.