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Gear failure on plane forces student, pilot to make emergency landing

A student pilot received an unexpected and firsthand lesson in emergency landings Monday afternoon when instrumentation aboard a single-engine private plane indicated a locked landing gear, forcing his instructor to safely make a “belly” landing at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

C. Douglas Hartmayer, spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, said the 2:35 p.m. incident took place aboard a Cessna Cutlass 172 registered to Prior Aviation of Buffalo that was returning to the Buffalo airport during a training flight to Batavia. When the instrument panel indicated only two of three landing struts had fully deployed, Hartmayer said, the instructor and ground control officials determined a belly landing was the safest option.

“The normal procedure is to retract all the landing gear and make the belly landing, which is exactly what the pilot did,” he said. “It was textbook. No injuries.”

The airport’s Air Rescue Firefighting Unit was on the scene as the airplane landed, he added.

Hartmayer said the plane stayed on the airport’s secondary, or “crosswind,” runway throughout the entire incident, creating sparks – but no fire or smoke – as it landed. The Federal Aviation Administration was reported to be on hand late Monday afternoon to investigate the landing, with plans to remove the aircraft later.

Names of the plane’s occupants were not available, he said, noting that normal traffic continued and no disruptions were reported.

The incident took place just two days after a much larger-scale disaster drill was conducted at the airport Saturday, Hartmayer noted.

“By all accounts,” he said, “the pilot did a remarkable job in landing that aircraft.”