Plane lands safely in Tumwater after having difficulty with landing gear

Staff writerAugust 27, 2013 

A small plane landed safely without engine power at Olympia Regional Airport Tuesday afternoon after an issue with its landing gear stranded it in the air for about two hours.

The pair of pilots in the cockpit of the Cessna 172RG belonging to Glacier Aviation were unharmed. Pilot Steve O’Leary, a flight instructor for Glacier, was teaching copilot Patrick Patterson of Summit Lake when there was an issue with the landing gear before noon.

“It was a good learning experience for me,” a relieved Patterson said shortly after landing after searching for a solution for about two hours.

The plane’s landing gear was lowering, but it wasn’t locking in place, according to instruments. If they were to put down the plane with an unsteady landing gear, there was an increased risk for a crash landing the plane on its wing, increasing the risk of a fire, O’Leary said.

So the men troubleshot the situation from about 2,200 feet. They looked to see whether the plane was leaking hydraulic fluid, which meant the gear wouldn’t go down. Seeing none, Patterson used the hook end of a tow bar, a metal rod used to tow the plane on the ground, to manually pull down the landing gear, while O’Leary piloted the plane.

But that meant they had to cut power to the plane, or risk the gear not staying down, O’Leary said.

The plane made a couple of approaches before landing, Patterson said, to determine the best approach.

The plane landed safely at about 1:50 p.m., according to airport director Rudy Rudolph.

Both of the men in the cockpit are experienced pilots. Patterson said he just needed the flight time, because pilots are required to periodically get more training to keep their pilot certification.

The incident is rare, O’Leary said. “I’ve been flying for 30 years,” he said, and it has “never happened before.”

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