Sat, Aug. 24

Cool heads rule as wheel-less aircraft skids in

Staff photo by Angela De Welles

Firefighters secure the Navion as the Cottonwood Airport after it made a belly-landing. The small aircraft carrying five people, dropped a wheel over the Lake Montezuma area shortly after takeoff.

Hanks, a Rimrock resident who has been a pilot for the past 14 years, was able to stay calm. Which was a good thing, because he had his wife and three young children in the plane with him.

Wife Cherie said her husband did an amazing job at safely landing the aircraft.

"When I knew the tire was gone, I knew it was going to be a crash landing," she said.

They told children Aulie, 5, Dakota, 8, and Alexia, 10, exactly what was happening and that they should expect a loud noise.

Everyone was able to remain calm and brave. Hanks made a smooth belly landing at the Cottonwood Airport.

The pilot said there is a procedure to follow and safety precautions to take when you aren't able to use your landing gear.

"You never want to land with fuel or the engine running," he said.

A fuel leak and the possibility of sparks upon landing could cause a fire. So Hanks circled the area to burn of fuel as emergency crews prepared on the ground.

Cottonwood Fire Chief Mike Casson said this was the fourth belly landing he's witnessed in his career.

"He did an outstanding job," Casson said of Hanks.

Besides emergency personnel, area pilots swarmed the airport once they had word of what was going on in the sky.

Dale Berry has been a pilot since 1964 and also owns a Navion. He said Hanks landed in the safest way possible.

"You're never trained for that," Berry said. "It's once in a lifetime."

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