SEASIDE - The pilot of a twin-engine Cessna plane had a lucky escape Monday afternoon when he landed at the Seaside Municipal Airport with his undercarriage up.
Pilot Roger DeLong, of Gearhart, was flying from Hillsboro and had just dropped off his passenger, Gary Turel, at the Astoria Regional Airport in Warrenton, before flying solo to land in Seaside.
At about 4 p.m. DeLong attempted to land in Seaside with his undercarriage stuck in the up position. He estimated he might have slid 700 feet before coming to a stop in the middle of the runway lane.
"It was a smooth landing, even with the gear up," said DeLong.
He believed the wing flaps and propellers helped to cushion the plane's landing.
Molly Smith, who lives behind the Seaside Airport, opened up her back door to see the airplane sitting on its belly.
"It sounded like a big jet engine coming in," said Smith. "I've been here 14 years and never seen a plane (land) like that."
Seaside Police Department personnel were on the scene Monday evening gathering information on the crash. Staff from North Coast Crane Service was also on hand, waiting for a specialist to arrive from Hillsboro to help carefully lift the plane off the ground and avoid any serious damage.
Turel, the owner and operator of Seaside Helicopters, described DeLong as a very experienced pilot.
"You can't fly for 40 years and not have close calls," Turel said of his personal experience in the air.
North Coast Crane Service waits on the runway at the Seaside Airport for a specialist from Hillsboro to arrive on scene and assist with raising the twin-engine plane off the runway and avoiding further damage. A Seaside Police officer, right, assists with measuring the distance the plane slid before coming to a stop in the middle of the runway.
Photo by ALEX PAJUNAS - The Daily Astorian fileThe Seaside airport reopened at 9 p.m. Monday after the plane was lifted by a crane mounted on a trailer, said Neal Wallace, Seaside Public Works director and airport manager.
Wallace planned to meet with Federal Aviation Administration investigators this morning.
He said the plane suffered some damage and remained at the airport. The pilot told him the plane's landing gear couldn't be lowered, Wallace said.
No property damage occurred at the airport. Seaside Fire Marshal Chris Dugan said firefighters returned to the airport later Monday evening to clean up some spilled fuel after the plane was moved, but the spill was minor.
Allen Kenitzer, FAA regional spokesman, said landing gear jams were not uncommon on the twin-engine Cessna 320. The FAA will look at the pilot's records and gather other information, then turn it over to the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the official cause of the crash.