Pilot brings in plane on two wheels
INUVIK (Oct 15/99) - Jack Teal wants to make it very clear that he did nothing special in safely landing his Chieftain Navaho PA-31 in Inuvik with one wheel stuck in the wing of the airplane.
"Heroes are yesterday's news, and there's no room for that in this profession," he said. "All the pilots are trained to do a job -- and there may be hours of boredom and only a few seconds of quote-unquote sheer terror."
In fact, Teal, a 33-year flying veteran, said that the flight recorder would show that he and his co-pilot and their lone passenger remained calm throughout last Wednesday's incident. Beaudel Air spokesman Mark Tacchi said that's exactly what it was -- an incident and not an accident -- that everyone was safe and that the company is pleasantly surprised at how little damage the plane suffered.
The incident began with the aircraft approaching Tuktoyaktuk on Wednesday morning and Teal realizing that there was a gear problem and the left-hand wheel would not descend for landing. At that point Beaudel chose to turn the plane around and try a landing in Inuvik so that the Community Emergency Response Team could be on hand.
Teal circled Inuvik Airport for an additional 90 minutes to reduce the level of fuel in the airplane and, consequently, the chance of fire in the event of a crash. He had the choice of trying a belly landing or on the right wheel and smaller front wheel.
"I elected to land with the gear down because the gear takes the first impact absorption," he said. "I aimed right down the centre of the runway, knowing that when the wing dropped we'd go into uncontrollable circling."
But the Navaho spun only twice before it came to a halt -- and the grade on the side of the runway meant that the prop never touched the tarmac and the plane suffered only minor scrapes to its belly and a bent wing flap. Tacchi said that within five minutes of the landing, an inspector from the federal Transportation Safety Board OK'd the plane to return to the Beaudel hangar.
"There's always anxious moments when there's a emergency because you don't know fully how it's going to turn out," said Teal, "but I don't get all excited about it -- it's my job and I'm well trained and paid to fly an airplane ... and we like the public to feel comfortable with flying."