A video has emerged online showing the moment that a pilot flying a private jet was forced to make an emergency landing in Palm Springs, California, with no wheels on Friday. The plane’s landing gear failed to deploy as it approached the Palm Springs International Airport in California, but the pilot was able to land smoothly by approaching the runway cautiously, keeping his plane under control.
The video shows the plane carrying only two people — a pilot and a passenger — touching down gently on the runway on its belly and skidding to a halt safely.
No one suffered injuries.
The video footage, obtained by NBC News, shows the private jet approaching the Palm Springs International Airport, but as the plane descends to make a landing, the gear failed to deploy and the pilot realized he would have to make a landing without his gear. Fortunately, he was up to the task.
Watch as he makes a smooth descent and lands the plane safely on its belly.
The plane hits the ground with minimal impact jolt. It slides under control along the runway and stops before it reaches the end of the runway.
The Daily Mail reports that the runway and the airport were closed for nearly an hour after the landing, but airport officials said only very few planes were scheduled to land at the time.
The major risk that a pilot faces while trying to land a plane without the landing gear deployed is that friction between the metallic belly of the plane and the hard, rough surface of the runway could generate enough heat and sparks that cause the plane to burst into flames.
Fortunately, in this case, although the belly-landing generated some sparks, dust, and smoke, it skidded to a halt safely.
Riverside County emergency rescue teams, firefighters, and officers of the Palm Springs Police Department moved quickly to the scene. The firefighters sprayed foam on the bottom of the plane as a precaution against fire.
This is not the first time that a plane has had to land on its belly after its landing gear failed to deploy. Such landings require great skill and experience.
The pilot also needs to stay calm as panicking could affect his judgment.
The maneuver is often referred to informally as belly-landing or pancake landing. It occurs under any circumstance in which the pilot has to land his plane without his landing gear fully extended. The pilot uses the plane’s underside or belly in place of the landing gear for touchdown.
Occasionally, belly landings are not due to failure of the mechanism by which the landing gear is deployed, but due to human error when the pilot forgets to extend the landing gear. Such cases are often referred to as gear-up landing.
A belly landing usually causes severe damage to the airplane. There are several major risks involved in a belly-landing. The plane could flip over after hitting the ground due to the jarring effect of the hard runway surface and friction. The shock of the impact as the plane lands on its underside could also cause it to break apart. Finally, the impact and friction on contact with the hard and rough surface of the runway could generate enough heat to cause the plane to ignite in flames.
Obviously, belly landing requires fine-tuned precision to ensure that the plane lands smoothly in a straight line and at an optimum speed to minimize damage due to the impact of the touchdown.
Belly landings are complicated by extreme weather conditions, such as strong crosswinds that could blow the plane off course, or low visibility that could make the pilot misjudge ground level.
Despite the difficulties, most well-trained pilots can execute belly-landing safely.
The video below shows the pilot of a Boeing 767 from Newark in New Jersey executing a perfect belly-landing in Warsaw in November 2011, after the plane’s gear failed to deploy.
The Daily Mail reported in July an incident in which a pilot flying a World War II spitfire over the Sibson Airfield in Cambridgeshire was forced to land without any wheels after the landing gear failed to deploy.
The landing was complicated by strong winds blowing at the time. The pilot had to circle in the air for about 20 minutes to burn off fuel before making a landing without the use of his landing gear.
[Image via Adrian Pingstone/Public Domain]