Close call at Ontario Int'l Airport

ONTARIO, Calif. It happens from time to time: A pilot forgets or mechanically cannot extend the landing gear. And the plane slides down the runway on its belly. Although usually not fatal, such accidents are costly.

Last Thursday morning, it almost happened again, this time at Ontario Airport. A call from an alert Southwest Airlines pilot saved the day.

The pilot saw an approaching single-engine Cessna Centurion ready to land, but with its landing gear up.

Ground Controller Carlos Rodriguez heard the airline pilot's warning, passed it on to fellow controller Bruce Bradigan, who radioed up to the Cessna.

"I looked straight out and there he was. And then I turned to Bruce, gave a shout to Bruce: 'Hey, his gear's up.' And then Bruce relayed the message to 04 Yankee," said Rodriguez.

"The amount of damage that could've been done and what could've happened in realizing that we averted it makes me feel really good," said Bradigan.

After a go-around, the Cessna pilot got his gear down and landed safely and wasted no time in thanking everyone involved.

For his part, the pilot of the Cessna makes no excuses. He said it was a calm, clear morning; he's made this landing thousands of times when he's flown in from his home in Big Bear, and he just forgot.

"It's horribly embarrassing, especially when you fly all the time. And just a great wake-up that you've got to follow the checklist. You've got to watch the business of the flying and not get distracted when you're in the air," said Rick Otto, pilot of the Cessna.

The Federal Aviation Administration says it doesn't know if any action will be taken for the gear-down oversight.

Rick Otto just says he's happy that someone was there to catch him.


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