Emergency landing at airport has positive outcome

Several emergency services personnel respond to incident


On March 27, a Cessna 172F experienced mechanical issues that made for a difficult landing and had emergency personnel staged and ready at Upper Cumberland Regional Airport.

“Today, we had an aircraft with a mechanical failure resulting in a broken landing gear in flight,” airport manager Dean Selby explained.

Selby said the left wheel of the fixed wing single-engine aircraft had detached, making for an emergency landing for the pilot.

Matt England, the pilot of the aircraft, said he contacted Selby as soon as he knew something was wrong and was confident the airport manager would coordinate everything on the ground in preparation for his landing.

“I’m good friends with Dean, I am out here all the time,” he said. “I made one phone call, and he took care of everything, so I didn’t have to make all of those phone calls myself.”

Selby said he called White County Emergency Management director Matt McBride and then called E-911, putting into action a plan that would prepare for any scenario upon the aircraft’s landing.

“Airport personnel coordinated with emergency services, and both did an absolutely fantastic job of preparing for the emergency landing,” Selby said.

White County EMA, North End  Volunteer Fire Department, Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Sparta Fire Department, White County Emergency Medical Service, Sparta-White County Rescue Squad, Tennessee Highway Patrol, White County Sheriff’s Office, Federal Aviation Administration, and Life Force 2 medical helicopter all staged at the Upper Cumberland Regional Airport to wait for the plane to return to the runway.

“We did take off full fuel, so we had plenty of time to think through,” England said.

He stated that the aircraft, which had taken off from UCRA, spent approximately two hours flying around the area burning off fuel to reduce weight as he thought through different landing scenarios and determined the best way to lower speed and approach the runway.

“We train for emergencies, so we do what we have to do,” England said.

While England spent hours in the air thinking about his landing, McBride spent the time on the ground talking with both airport and emergency personnel to determine the best way to handle the situation should the landing not be successful.

“We have had to do this before, but we don’t do this very often, so it was like a training exercise, but it was a live event,” McBride said. “Everything worked perfect today. I think that all agencies came together well. The airport staff was very impressed with our work, and they told me that they appreciated our response.” 

As the plane landed, two fire trucks deployed down the taxiway to be of assistance should the plane or its occupants need help.

“I went out in my vehicle with the airport manager. We went in between the two response engines,” McBride said. “We held the other personnel back because we don’t want to deploy out everything in case there is an incident.  We don’t want everything piling in at the same time.”

All of the precautionary measures by the airport and the various White County emergency departments were in place but not needed as England, who had made two practice approaches to the runway, landed the plane with minimal difficulty, guiding the aircraft to a stop without incident.

“Luckily the landing was uneventful and about as smooth as anyone could hope for with no injuries and limited property damage to the aircraft,” Selby said, as he talked about the remarkable landing England maneuvered, despite missing the landing gear on the left side of the plane. “There was no appreciable damage to the runway, and the aircraft was towed off the runway as soon as the FAA completed their initial fact gathering mission.”

Selby said he was impressed with the work of all parties involved and appreciative of the efforts and patience of the emergency staff who was on hand.

“I feel the big takeaway is how lucky we are to have such a great community of first responders. Many of our firefighters and rescue squad members are volunteers that give their time to be available for members of the community at a moment’s notice,” he said, expressing his admiration and appreciation. “For what it’s worth, I, for one, am very proud of our EMS, fire, rescue, police and EMA and am thankful for their support of the airport and the community.”

While McBride would like to believe that this was a one-time event, he understands the reality of having an airport in the community means other emergencies can happen at any time, and he said the recent event has made the need for future trainings a reality.

“Dean advised me that he would like to get with the emergency personnel and discuss where the safe spaces at the airport are as far as the runway and taxiways,” McBride said. “Also, to talk about shutdowns and what they can shut down and what steps can be taken to before having to shut down the whole airport. And, of course, some future trainings with Andy McCulley and the North End Fire Department and the Rescue Squad.

“Again, everything worked perfect today, and we had a good outcome and are that much more prepared for future emergencies. Everybody in White County should be proud of their emergency services today.”        


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