But for two hours Saturday afternoon, in the air and on the ground, the pressure was intense and the outcome uncertain.
The ordeal began shortly after noon Saturday when the pilot, who was traveling with another man and a child, reported that his left landing gear had jammed. The county airport’s emergency plan was launched, bringing in several agencies to prepare for the worst.
The San Jose Fire Department brought in special equipment, including a unit carrying 700 gallons of foam to prevent the ignition of any fuel that might spill out of the plane. An American Medical Response ambulance was at the ready, as were San Jose police and county emergency services.
The pilot circled for two hours while the ground operation was coordinated and he burned fuel, said San Jose fire Capt. Robert Culbertson. With all the agencies and the pilot communicating together on the radio, they decided that the pilot would retract his right landing gear and come in for a belly landing on the far west landing strip.
“It was very tense on the way down,” said Culbertson, who was on the scene. “You never know how it’s going to go.”
The pilot circled over the Eastridge Mall, “came over real low and slow, then skidded to a stop on the runway on the belly of the airplane,” he said.
Because the Cessna 182 Skylane RG II is so lightweight and its resting place hard to predetermine, crews waited for the plane to touch down before hosing the area with foam to prevent any fire, he said.
“This was the best case scenario,” Culbertson said. “We had a pilot who had forethought to have adequate fuel in his airplane and to notify the tower as soon as he knew he had problems. That allowed us to amass enough resources on the ground to do contingency planning.”
Neither the two men nor the child, whom airport authorities would not identify, were injured.
“They say any landing you can walk away from is a good landing,” Culbertson said, “and they all walked away from this one.”