When you get on an airplane, chances are you’ll land safely at your destination. But how would you react if you found out a vital piece of the plane had failed mid-flight and there was no way to fix it?
On November 20, 2017, a pilot in California, Maryland took a small plane out for a fun afternoon of flying. However, while up in the air, he discovered there was something seriously wrong with his plane and his reaction would mean the difference between life and death.
Years Of Experience
Over the course of his career as a pilot, Anthony Capozzi has spent countless hours in the sky. From working as a pilot with a major U.S. air carrier and flying seaplanes and helicopters to working as a pilot examiner, it’s safe to say he knows what he’s doing.
Just Another Day
So when Anthony took a small 1966 Piper PA30 twin-engine airplane out from the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport in California, Maryland for a leisurely afternoon of flying, he thought it would just be a fun day in the sky like every other time he went out on solo flights…
And when Anthony first got up in the air, he was having a great time. Shortly after, however, Anthony realized there was something seriously wrong with a vital piece of the tiny plane’s equipment. Suddenly a fun day of flying turned into a fight for survival.
While Anthony was flying, he discovered the landing gear was broken, which would make landing incredibly difficult, not to mention, dangerous. Instead of panicking, the expert pilot managed to stay calm thanks to his years of experience in the air.
Anthony followed protocol and tested the plane’s backup system, but to make matters worse, that wasn’t working either. At about 2:40 p.m., Anthony made contact with an emergency communications center in Southern Maryland and explained the landing gear had failed.
Anthony tried troubleshooting the problem and did everything to correct the problem while still in the sky. When every attempt failed, he came to the conclusion that there was only one last option left. But it wasn’t going to be easy…
Anthony knew that the only other option left was to attempt to land the plane without any landing gear. Just before 3 p.m., Anthony made his decision and told the emergency communications center what he was planning to do.
Landing without any landing gear is typically referred to as a belly landing, a gear-up landing, or a pancake landing. Pilot’s attempting the dangerous landing need to keep the plane as level and straight as possible while also maintaining enough speed to keep control…
As soon as Anthony notified authorities that he was going to attempt a belly landing, several Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Medical Services units headed straight for the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport and started preparing in case the landing wasn’t successful.
All Over The News
Not only did first responders race to the scene, but a local news channel, WRC TV, sent out their helicopter to get footage of the landing, which was being broadcast on the 4 p.m. news. However, the station aired the footage with a delay in case they needed to cut coverage if the landing failed…
Preparing For Landing
Meanwhile, Anthony was still in the sky preparing to land. However, before he could attempt the belly landing, he knew he had to use up as much fuel as possible to try and prevent an explosion in case the plane crashed or flipped.
Running On Empty
For approximately 30 minutes, Anthony flew around above the airport to try and use up as much fuel as possible. Once the fuel level was just about empty, he knew it was time to start the descent to the runway, where he could see the emergency crews waiting…
Anthony had years of experience flying and landing planes, however, everything would have to be perfect if he was going to walk away unharmed. If he landed too fast or too hard, the plane might flip over, disintegrate, or even catch fire.
Just before 4:30 in the afternoon, Anthony carefully started descending as first responders and the news crew watched with bated breath. As he got closer to the ground, he cut the engine and fought the crosswinds to keep the plane as level as possible…
Moments after the engine was shut off, which would ensure that there would not be a propeller strike, Anthony touched down on the runway at 4:26 p.m. Thanks to his skill and experience, Anthony managed to safely come to a stop on the belly of the plane.
Calm, Cool, And Collected
Once the small plane came to a full stop, Anthony calmly climbed out of the cockpit and looked over the plane. He then walked off the runway with his hands in his pockets as if nothing had happened and was examined for any injuries.
According to the county sheriff’s officer, Anthony was completely unharmed during the emergency landing. Normally, belly landings can cause a lot of damage to the plane, but authorities explained that the landing had been so perfect that the only damage the plane received was on the belly where it came in contact with the runway.
An Expert’s Opinion
According to an experienced pilot that sits on the St. Mary’s County Airport Commission, whose name has not been released to the media, the landing was a ‘textbook’ example of a belly landing. “No distress and very little risk,” he added.
What Went Wrong?
Anthony’s landing and the way he handled the situation was perfect, but there’s something unusual about the landing gear failure. Normally, planes have an emergency extension system like a manual crank or mechanical-free fall mechanism that allows the landing gear to fall and lock with gravity and airflow. Not only was there a mechanical failure, but the emergency system didn’t work either.
The FAA Investigates
While everyone agrees that Anthony’s landing was a miracle, no one can figure out what went wrong to cause the landing gear to fail. The Sheriff’s office explained that the Federal Aviation Administration would be taking over the investigation to find out what happened.