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Rough landings at Roche

No one was injured when this 1980 Beech Bonanza landed with its landing gear up Friday afternoon at Roche Harbor Airfield. The next day, a San Juan Airlines plane lost power after takeoff and landed on the grass at the end of the runway. Again, no one was injured. - James Krall
No one was injured when this 1980 Beech Bonanza landed with its landing gear up Friday afternoon at Roche Harbor Airfield. The next day, a San Juan Airlines plane lost power after takeoff and landed on the grass at the end of the runway. Again, no one was injured.
— image credit: James Krall

No one was hurt in two separate incidents at Roche Harbor Airport — a wheels-up landing Friday afternoon and an aborted takeoff by a San Juan Airlines flight Saturday afternoon.

In Friday’s belly landing, two men — pilot Frank Burlage, 55, of La Jolla, Calif. and passenger Mark Berriage, 44, of New Zealand — were flying a 1980 Beech Bonanza A36TC on an apparent routine flight from Cavanaugh Bay, Idaho when, according to the pilot, there was an apparent fuse malfunction in the circuitry controlling the aircraft’s landing gear.

Burlage didn’t disclose whether he knew his wheels were up when he landed.

David Gibbs, property manager at Roche Harbor Resort, said that given the time of day and the angle of the sun shining on the instrument panel on the pilot’s final approach, it’s not uncommon for indicator lights to appear as though they’re illuminated.

Consequently, it’s not known if the Burlage had “three greens” — three green lights on the display indicating that the aircraft’s wheels are down and locked.

The plane skidded about 1,200 feet and came to rest in the center of the runway. Onlookers agreed that Burlage did a masterful job keeping in control.

According to Burlage, who was immediately in contact with Federal Aviation Administration officials, since the aircraft’s wings didn’t touch the ground and there was no damage to the aircraft’s spar, the incident wouldn’t be subject to further investigation and the case is essentially closed.

As the plane was being lifted by its nose, Burlage got back inside the aircraft and lowered the plane’s landing gear using electrical power. It took several attempts to get them down, as the circuit cut in and out several times.

The cost of the damage to the aircraft is unknown. It was towed to a nearby hanger at Westcott Aviation.

Saturday afternoon, a San Juan Airlines flight to Boeing Field went awry as the pilot of the airline’s Cessna 207 lost power immediately after becoming airborne and put the plane back down on the grass at the end of the runway.

“The pilot did exactly what he was supposed to do and trained to do and it worked out perfectly,” San Juan Airlines owner Clyde Carlson said. “He aborted takeoff and landed his airplane.”

According to Carlson, the aircraft lost “about half” its power as it became airborne; the cause is believed to be an exhaust malfunction in the muffler.

“An internal part of the muffler broke lose inside the muffler and interfered with the flow of the exhaust,” Carlson said. “He couldn’t get full power on takeoff.”

Carlson estimated the plane was between 50 and 70 feet off the ground when the pilot aborted the takeoff.

The plane was carrying three passengers who were picked up by another San Juan Airlines plane and they made their connection in Seattle, Carlson said.

“The pilot was praised by the people on the plane.”

According to Carlson, the plane suffered a minor dent in the wheel-well and stopped short of a fence.

“We had a mechanic take a look at it, put a new muffler on it, got a permit from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and flew it back home,” Carlson said.

According to Carlson, the aircraft was in good working order and is current on all its legally required safety and inspection requirements.

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