‘Pilot Did a Great Job,’ Touches Down Safely After Plane’s Landing Gear Malfunctions

Jan 14, 2020

The pilot of a twin-engine plane operated by Ravn Air Group made an emergency landing Sunday afternoon at Fairbanks International Airport when the aircraft’s landing gear malfunctioned.

Airport Fire and Police Chief Aaron Danielson says none of the seven passengers aboard the Piper Navajo were injured when the aircraft skidded to a stop at around 1 p.m. Sunday.

A Piper PA-31 Navajo like this safely landed Sunday at Fairbanks International Airport, despite a malfunction that kept the landing gear on the right side of the aircraft from extending.
Credit Flickr

“The pilot did a great job. It coasted to a good landing with little damage to the aircraft and safety to all the passengers and crew involved,” Danielson said in an interview Monday.

The chief says the flight was en route to Galena but was diverted back to Fairbanks when the pilot realized there was a problem with the landing gear on the right side of the aircraft.

“They couldn’t get their landing gear down as they’re approaching Galena and so they returned to Fairbanks for an emergency landing,” he said.

Danielson says the pilot flew past the control tower a few times after he got to Fairbanks International at about 12:30 p.m. to have tower personnel confirm that the landing gear was indeed stuck, “because they can’t see underneath their own aircraft.”

He says the pilot and tower kept in constant communication to plan and prepare for the landing. He says pilots train how to set the plane down is such circumstances.

The right wingtip of the Ravn Piper Navajo skids along the tarmac on the main runway at Fairbanks International as the pilot brings the damaged aircraft to a stop.
Credit Facebook video screenshot

“They generally put it down real light, try to keep any part that’s not supported by the landing gear off the runway as long as possible, and put it down as gently as possible.”

Danielson says that’s exactly what the pilot did. But audio recorded by a passenger and uploaded onto social media suggests it was still a harrowing experience. You can hear some anxious comments a few seconds into this clip -- and then a compliment to the pilot’s skill.    

A statement issued by Ravn says the aircraft’s right aileron and flap were lightly damaged during the emergency landing. The company says the aircraft will be out of service until it’s repaired, inspected and test flown.

The statement says Ravn is in communication with both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board for help in determining why the gear malfunctioned. Spokespersons for the NTSB and Ravn didn’t return calls Monday afternoon for additional information, including the answer to the question: did the passengers finally get to Galena?