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Pilot recounts risky landing at HIA - abc27 WHTM

Pilot recounts risky landing at HIA

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    Small plane skids off runway at HIA

    Friday, August 16 2013 10:37 AM EDT2013-08-16 14:37:29 GMT
    The pilot of a small plane was uninjured when the aircraft landed on its belly and skidded off the runway at Harrisburg International Airport Thursday night.More >>
    The pilot of a small plane was uninjured when the aircraft landed on its belly and skidded off the runway at Harrisburg International Airport Thursday night.More >>
MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) -

An emergency landing at Harrisburg International Airport last week was even riskier than first believed.

The pilot, Dr. Dave Cooper, told abc27 News Monday that he landed Thursday night without any power to the plane.

"Well, it all started out with a very uneventful flight. I was looking forward to coming to Harrisburg, flying out of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton," said Cooper, an orthopedic surgeon in Wilkes-Barre. "Normally, it's about a half an hour flight."

About 10 minutes away from Harrisburg, Cooper said everything went dark.

"Frankly, at that point, I didn't really know what was going on," he said. "You just sort of collect yourself and we have three things we do in aviation; it's called aviate, navigate and communicate."

But Cooper had no way to communicate other than a handheld radio, and with his panel out, he had no way to navigate. He had to do it the "old school" way.

"I knew that the airport was near the stacks, the stacks are readily visible," he said, referring to the cooling towers at Three Mile Island. "So, you started flying sort of to the stacks, understanding they're probably not too happy that the plane is flying near a nuclear power plant."

But there was another problem: Cooper had to manually release the landing gear.

"There's a crank that - you have to lean backwards and turn it 50 times counter-clockwise, all while flying the plane with your left hand," Cooper said.

As if that was not stressful enough, Cooper had to worry about colliding with other planes in mid-air because the power outage essentially made him invisible. Once he saw the emergency lights, Cooper went in for the landing.

"Then, you're at the mercy of what's happening," he said. "The plane went along straight. You hear a lot of screeching because as you can see the propeller hit and then the belly of the plane hits. But planes are made, structurally, to withstand a belly landing."

Cooper said he kept his cool and let his 25 years of flying experience kick in. He said he could not have made such a successful landing without the help of HIA's air traffic controllers.

"They did a fantastic job clearing the air space. "As you know, there were some delays, unfortunately, and I apologize for that. Some flights had to be diverted because the runway was closed. But the tower did a great job," he said.

"I'd like to say in defense of small planes and single pilots that most land very successfully," he said. "We have a great track record."

Cooper's plane will stay at HIA for a few days so that a mechanic can figure out what went wrong and how to fix the problem.

 

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