A safe but bumpy landing at airport

A flying lesson turns into a scare when a plane's nose gear fails.

Published May 22, 2007

TAMPA - The two pilots practiced deploying the plane's landing gear during an instruction session Monday afternoon.

When the gear locks into place, three green lights shine. But this time, only two lit up.

"I heard a 'pop' below me, right where the nose landing gear is," pilot Matt Cowan recalled. "So we knew something was wrong."

The nose gear didn't deploy fully, so the pilots made an emergency landing about 12:50 p.m. Monday at Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands. All three occupants - Cowan, flight instructor Pete Kendall and Cowan's dog, Riley - walked away from the twin-engine plane without injury.

The 4-year-old black Labrador often tags along on flights, said Cowan, who was working on his multi-engine certification.

Cowan, 34, said he was more irritated than scared; the landing caused major damage to the Cessna 310 aircraft he had recently purchased.

Kendall couldn't be reached for comment Monday. He is 65 years old and lives in Brandon, according to Tampa Fire Rescue officials.

Kendall told WTVT-Ch. 13 news that he made an emergency landing once before at the airport in July 2004. He said Monday's experience was like deja vu.

The dual-propeller, fixed-wing plane is still registered to Recore Trading Co., but a company representative said the company no longer owns it.

Cowan and Kendall took off from Peter O. Knight Monday morning, before practicing a landing in Zephyrhills and refueling there, Cowan said.

But on the return to Davis Islands, the nose gear malfunctioned.

The pilots circled the airport to burn fuel before setting down. The forced landing went "as well as possible," Cowan said.

Staff writer Casey Cora contributed to this report. Rick Gershman can be reached at rgershman@sptimes.com or 226-3431.