Despite the presence of the flashing lights of firetrucks, ambulances and several other emergency vehicles, a "nonevent" is how pilot Tom Koop described a gear-up landing Sunday, April 28, at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.
"It's much more routine than what all the emergency vehicles would indicate," Koop said Monday, after Sunday's events forced him to land his twin-engined Beechcraft Baron on its belly when the landing gear malfunctioned.
"They're there in that one in a million chance that something would go wrong," he added.
Koop called for emergency services about 5 p.m. and circled the airport several times before completing the nontraditional landing. After speaking with mechanics, he learned there was a fractured piece of metal prohibiting the landing gear from operating correctly.
Though this predicament has never happened to Koop in his nearly 50 years of flying, his training prepared him for the task. The process for a gear-up landing, he said, does not differ much from a normal landing with the gear down. The plane just ends up landing on its belly, which Koop noted aircrafts are built to handle in a situation such as this one.
But because the propellers hit the ground, transferring the impact into the internal part of the plane's engines, Koop said, the internal parts of the plane need to be checked thoroughly and the engines may need replacing.
After the landing, Koop said a front-end loader lifted the plane up to get the wheels down and then towed it into the hangar.
"At first glance, if you looked at it in my hangar, you wouldn't think anything even happened," he said.
The plane however, will likely be out of commission for the next couple months.
Even though his landing was ultimately successful, Koop praised emergency responders for their quick response and a job well done.
"To non-aviation people, it's huge, so everybody gets kind of excited," he said of Sunday's events. "When you look back it was kind of unusual, but nonevent is the best way I can describe it."
Koop is a flight instructor who runs Soaring Soul, a business offering flight training in seaplanes, high performance/complex training and tailwheel endorsements for pilots. He also teaches fundamentals of aviation at Brainerd High School and said the details of Sunday's event proved a good lesson to share with his students and teach them about following their checklist and staying calm in an emergency.
Neither Koop nor his passenger were injured in Sunday's flight, which was not instructional but purely for pleasure, though Koop said the scenario would have served as a good in-flight training experience had a student been on board.