COLUMBIA, 8/2/11 (Beat Byte) -- A solo pilot from Jackson, Missouri in the state's southeastern corner was forced to land his small plane without half his landing gear at Columbia Regional Airport Wednesday of last week. Phil Penzel first noticed something was wrong about three miles from the runway.
"I told the tower that I was having gear trouble and then did a low pass flyby for inspection," Penzel told the Southeast Missourian newspaper. "While doing so, the tower indicated that everything appeared normal."
As Penzel pushed his landing gear down and started descending, he couldn't get a critical green light to come on. Though control tower personnel prepared for an emergency landing, Penzel had to keep the plane on steady ground. "I thought, 'Let's give it a shot and see if we have luck,' and I guess ultimately we were very lucky," Penzel said.
When the plane touched down on only two wheels instead of three, it tilted sharply to the right "and caused my right wing to dip down," he said, adding that he maneuvered the plane to skid across grass instead of pavement to avoid creating sparks and a fire. He also kept the plane's nose high to protect the engine.
In the end, his back wing hit a sign, spinning the plane into a full stop. Penzel got out quickly, ran, and later, surveyed what he called "minor damage." FAA officials congratulated his emergency landing skills.
"When you're flying, you can never panic," Penzel told the Southeast Missourian. He also said he was ready to go back up again.