FITCHBURG -- A pilot with faulty landing gear and two children onboard managed to avoid any injuries in a controlled crash landing Sunday at Fitchburg Municipal Airport.
Fitchburg Deputy Fire Chief Gregg Normadin said the pilot, who is from Sterling, had his son and his son's friend on board, ages 7 and 8.
The plane is a SIAI-Marchetti high-performance aircraft, according to witness and fellow pilot Loy Riley of Worcester, who saw the plane come down and heard the radio chatter as the story unfolded.
According to Riley, shortly after takeoff the indicator lights showed that his landing gear wasn't working properly. The plane has two main landing gear wheels in the back and one nose wheel in the front, and the nose wheel would not lock in place for a landing. The pilot alerted airport staff and declared an emergency.
"He had to circle for quite a long time, at least 25 to 35 minutes, to lose as much fuel as he could, so if he did crash come and crash there wouldn't be a fire," she said.
Firefighters from Fitchburg and Leominster used that time to get emergency vehicles in place. They placed a fire engine on each end of the runaway and one in the middle and had two ambulances on the scene.
Just after noon the pilot came in to land with only two wheels. The crowd watching from behind the Airport Restaurant cheered when the pilot kept it up on the two main wheels for most of the landing.
"The plan skidded to a stop with no fire and no injuries," said Normadin. He said the pilot shut the powered systems off in the plane during the landing process. EMTs checked the two boys carefully to make sure they were fine, as sometimes children will fail to report injuries.
Riley, who's been a pilot for more than 30 years, said the landing was as good as they could have hoped for.
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