Small Plane Makes Emergency Landing In Western Pennsylvania

03.07.12 | Bob Price

The call went out for a plane in distress just after 2 p.m. Tuesday. 

It wasn't until an hour and a half later it made its final descent to the ground without any wheels underneath of it.

"A plane was reported coming in and the landing gear was not coming down," Rich Weaver, Chairman of the Airport Authority said.

The Airport Authority didn't know where it was coming from, but it knew where it was heading -- right to the runway of the Johnstown Cambria-County Airport. 

"The landing gear never did come down, and he circled for a while to use up most of his fuel, and once most of the fuel was gone he decided to make the landing," Weaver said.

It was a landing that no one was sure was going to end well with three people on board.

"I upgraded the incident to call for the potential of an actual plane down," Battalion Chief Bob Heffelfinger said.

Despite the odds, the small twin propeller plane hit the ground safely.

"He [came] in and did an excellent job of bringing the plane in without any trouble whatsoever," Weaver said.

"I had an opportunity to speak to the pilot, of course, he said 'thank you.' I told him, we didn't do much, he was the one who pulled off the show," Heffelfinger said.

An experienced pilot relied on an experienced response team to back him up.

"And said that he actually came here because he was familiar with the fire department resources that were available, so, we're pretty proud of that in Richland Township," Heffelfinger said.

The fire department and airport were proud of the training it takes to prepare for situations like this one.

"Hand-in-hand training and good communication, we're always hopeful for a positive result," Heffelfinger said.

"Every once in a while you need it; even though it's a very rare occasion, but it's important to have those meetings and to practice, and be ready for it like we were today and everybody did a fantastic job," Weaver said.

As of about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the airplane still stood on the runway while crews were cleaning up.

The Airport Authority said there's still no word on what caused the landing gear to fail.