Plane skids off runway at San Carlos Airport

January 7, 2013 7:51:38 PM PST
A Bay Area airport heavily used by private pilots and corporate jets had to shut down for most the day after a small plane made a bad landing. It happened at San Carlos Airport, which is bordered by Highway 101 and the bay. And the bay is where that plane ended up.

SKY7HD was overhead just moments after the single engine plane came to a stop with its nose gear stuck in the mud of a bay slough. Because it was close to low tide, the pilot and one passenger managed to climb out safely.

The aircraft was landing at San Carlos Airport and attracted the attention of witness James Burroughs who sensed something was amiss because of its low approach.

Burroughs: At that low altitude, he'd have to make a 90-degree turn to line up with the runway, and it seemed very low.
Louie: Are you surprised at all that he ran out of runway?
Burroughs: No, I'm surprised he made the runway and not off the other side somewhere.

Under ideal conditions, this aircraft needs 1,550 feet to land. San Carlos Airport's runway is 2,600 feet. However, witnesses say the pilot appeared to have landed at mid-field. And when the runway ended, the plane scaled a gravel covered levee before landing in the mud.

"The plane effectively landed on the runway. However, it was coming too fast and skidded off the runway, and now it's stuck in some mud at a levee that's just south of the airport," said Rebecca Rosenblatt, the Sheriff's Office public information officer.

As an FAA investigator began dissecting what happened, a tow truck with boom began the delicate job of pulling the plane from the mud. The propeller and nose gear sank into the clay under the weight of a plane weighing well over two tons.

"There doesn't seem to be any fuel leakage or oil leakage. We certainly wouldn't want to cause that by lifting the plane out improperly and honestly, we don't want to gouge the levee or do any damage to it that could threaten it," said Marshall Wilson, the county's communications director.

San Carlos Airport was closed for about six hours until the plane was removed. The FAA will continue its investigation. An insurance carrier is also likely to get involved. A new aircraft such as this has a price tag of over $600,000.


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