News Plane incidents — 14 May 2017

Cell phones helped save the day for pilot Bruce Kuecker who made a safe belly landing Saturday at Redding Municipal Airport when his landing gear failed.

Kuecker, 69, of Tahoe Vista near Truckee, was flying into Redding to visit his friend, Alex Landi, when he noticed his 1959 Piper Comanche PA-24-250 was having electrical problems.

“A couple of my radios had already gone out so I knew I was having a power failure,” Kuecker said afterward outside the Redding Jet Center. “The landing gear wouldn’t go down because it’s electrically operated also.”

Landi was waiting for his friend at Benton Airpark, where Kuecker was supposed to land, but became concerned when he didn’t arrive. Landi said he decided to use his cell phone to call the pilot and found out about his emergency. Landi relayed the bad news to a Benton Airpark worker, who put him in touch with the Redding tower.

With a landline in one hand connected to the airport and Kuecker on Landi’s cell phone in his other hand, the Redding friend decided it would be best if Kuecker just used his cell phone to call the municipal airport directly.

Pilot Bruce Kuecker of Tahoe Vista had to make a crash-landing Saturday at the Redding Airport after the landing gear failed on his 1959 Piper Comanche. Kuecker was not injured in the hard landing that occurred about 11:45 a.m.

Pilot Bruce Kuecker of Tahoe Vista had to make a crash-landing Saturday at the Redding Airport after the landing gear failed on his 1959 Piper Comanche. Kuecker was not injured in the hard landing that occurred about 11:45 a.m.

Kuecker already had spent 45 minutes trying to lower his landing gear manually without any luck. Redding airport officials cleared a runway for him for the 11:45 a.m. descent and Redding firefighters were ready in case there was a serious crash.

“I came in and did as gentle a touchdown as we could,” said Kuecker, who was unhurt. “The damage appears to be the prop and the underbelly.”

Kuecker was awaiting a call from his insurance company Saturday afternoon while he waited to learn the condition of the plane’s engine. The prop still was spinning when it hit the runway but Kuecker already had cut the motor.

“He did an excellent landing but he didn’t have landing gear,” Redding airports manager Bryant Garrett said.

Kuecker said without his friend’s help on the ground, his next step would’ve been to call 911 with his phone.

“Cell phones saved the day,” Landi said.

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