Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Mooney M20C Ranger, N6831V: Incident occurred December 13, 2016 at La Grande/Union County Airport (KLGD), Oregon

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA BOISE FSDO-11


Date: 13-DEC-16

Time: 18:55:00Z
Regis#: N6831V
Aircraft Make: MOONEY
Aircraft Model: M20C
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: LANDING (LDG)
State: OREGON 

A pilot and his passenger landed safely Tuesday morning at the La Grande/Union County Airport despite the landing gear locking up.

“I feel fine,” said John Larson, a Prineville pilot, after successfully landing his crippled 1975 Mooney M20C Ranger at the La Grande airport. “A pilot always wonders when you have an emergency like that if you’re going to do the right thing, but then training kicks in and you do.”

Larson has had his pilot’s license for nearly 50 years, he said. It’s likely Larson’s experience that got him and his passenger, Jim Mateski, on the ground unscathed.

“I was making every effort I could to get that gear down,” Larson said. “If I could get it to extend, then I would’ve saved myself thousands of dollars.”

The airport employees were impressed as they watched him land.

“It was an excellent landing,” said Lyn Welch, bookkeeper at the airport. “He did really well. It was just a gorgeous landing. It’s a good day when that happens.”

Things could’ve turned out much differently, she said.

Not too long after his safe landing, Larson was taking phone call after phone call, including from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, wanting to know the details about the landing.

Larson and Mateski had some tense moments, but appeared relatively at ease and in good spirits.

Larson and Mateski flew out of Prineville early Tuesday morning heading to La Grande to retrieve a puppy for Mateski, Larson said.

As the plane approached the La Grande/Union County Airport, Larson figured out they had a problem. He decided if he was going to have to make a landing without his gear, he wanted to make it at his home airport that he’s more familiar with.

He circled back to Prineville, but fog had set in, limiting visibility and forcing Larson and Mateski to return to La Grande.

“We wanted to make sure the weather didn’t become a factor in the situation too,” Larson said.

Since they knew the weather was good in La Grande, the duo returned to the Grande Ronde Valley and prepared to land.

“I was trying to figure out the best way to get it on the ground with the least amount of damage,” Larson said.

He said he recalled reading how others made landings similar to what he was facing and was fairly comfortable with the idea.

“It’s usually considered an ‘incident’ rather than an ‘accident’ by FAA standards,” Larson said. “Normally, people aren’t injured.”

Larson didn’t want to guess how much damage was done to his plane. Mooneys, he said, are pretty stout.

“I don’t have any guesses why it locked up,” he said. “I may never know.” 

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