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Plane makes gear-up landing

September 14, 2018 GMT

BULLHEAD CITY — The runway at Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport was closed for several hours Tuesday night after a small private plane landed with its gear up.

No injuries were reported. The plane, described as a Mooney single-engine, piston-driven aircraft, carried one pilot and one passenger, according to Airport Director Jeremy Keating.

“It wasn’t an emergency landing or anything,” Keating said of the incident. “It was a normal approach to the runway; the landing gear wasn’t down.”

Keating, who did not identify the pilot, said the incident report didn’t specify why the landing gear wasn’t deployed — whether there was a mechanical failure or if the pilot simply failed to engage the mechanical system to put the gear down before landing.

“I do not know the reason,” Keating said. “We talked to the pilot. We responded to the incident. We were really not given a reason.”

Keating said gear-up landings aren’t uncommon nationally. Locally, he said, they happen “pretty infrequently. We may have an incident like this once a year. It’s really, really rare.”

“It can happen that sometimes pilots forget to put their landing gear down,” Keating said, although he added he didn’t know if that was the case with what he described as an “incident” not an accident.

Rare or not, it prompted response from the airport staff, including emergency personnel. A crane had to be brought in to move the damaged aircraft. And because of the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration was notified and the runway was closed for several hours while the airplane was moved.

“Once we find out about it, that’s when I get a call,” Keating said. “That’s when the assistant airport director gets a call. Everybody gets a call.”

Keating said he was notified soon after the aircraft landed.

“We responded to the airport,” he said. “We had to call a crane company. We had to close down the runway until we could get the plane moved. We had to notify the FAA so they could release the plane (so it could be moved from the runway, allowing the airport to reopen).”

The control tower at Laughlin/Bullhead International closes at 6 p.m. daily; the incident occurred after 8 p.m. After hours, the airport operates with a “common traffic advisory frequency” that allows pilots landing, taking off or approaching the airport to communicate with each other.

It was unclear if any other aircraft had to be diverted Tuesday night.