A pilot and passenger safely walked off their plane after requesting emergency services about 5 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.
The pilot of the twin-engined Beechcraft Baron, registered to Soaring Soul of Brainerd, called for help after experiencing mechanical problems with its landing gear, Airport Director Steve Wright said in a phone interview after the incident.
After the plane circled the airport several times, however, it was determined the gear would not cooperate. Emergency responders stood by on the runway as a growing crowd of onlookers stopped along Highway 210 to observe, and airport staffers peered outside from Wings Cafe. According to the police scanner, officials requested the Minnesota State Patrol to help with traffic control on the state highway.
The plane eventually made a successful landing with its gear up, or a "belly landing." A gear-up landing, Wright explained, requires the same approach as that with the landing gear down, with the pilot completing his emergency checklist and then landing as softly as possible on the runway.
"That's exactly what the pilot did," Wright said, adding more risk is involved in a gear-up landing, though pilots train for those specific instances.
"Immediately their training followed through, and they were able to land successfully," he said.
Wright was at home when he got the call and said he was pleased with how well emergency crews responded.
"Our emergency responders reacted very well tonight," he said, noting airport personnel have practiced for emergencies such as this. "We were well prepared and responded very well, and I'm pleased with all of our partners here in Crow Wing County."
The Brainerd Fire Department, Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, North Memorial Ambulance and airport fire services assisted on scene.
Brainerd Fire Chief Tim Holmes said firefighters just went through their annual airport rescue firefighting training.
“It all focuses on the aircraft, which is a different approach and a different tactic than it would be fighting a house fire,” Holmes said by phone Sunday night. “I’m extremely proud of how smoothly everything went. … It worked real well with the airport rescue team out there.”
The registered plane owner Soaring Soul is a business offering flight training in seaplanes, high performance/complex training and tailwheel endorsements for pilots. According to the business' website, it is run by Tom Koop, a certified flight instructor who has flown in the Brainerd lakes area since 1971.