Pilot safely lands disabled plane at Pearson Field

Both occupants uninjured as aircraft skids to a halt

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Pilot Mike Curtin’s touch-and-go didn’t go so well Sunday afternoon but he won praise for landing his disabled airplane at Pearson Field.

Now he needs to fix the experimental plane that he built himself.

As he landed the KIT B200 craft, the damaged left wheel and undercarriage collapsed and he skidded to a safe stop on the grass at the historic airport about 1:30 p.m.

Neither Curtis, 51, nor his son, Shaun, 22, was hurt in the landing.

Father and son took off from Pearson and Curtin decided to practice touch-and-go landings/takeoffs at Scappoose, Ore.

But at Scappoose, the pilot said, “I veered off to the left and I hit a (runway) sign.” The plane rose back into the sky but Curtin knew he had a problem.

The tires should be in the upright position and be easy for the pilot to see, he said.

“We had a tire (viewable) on our right and no tire on the left,” Curtin said.

So, he radioed the tower at Portland International Airport and asked them to take a look.

“They said that the gear is still there but it is hanging straight down,” Curtin said.

With 32 years experience flying, Curtin said the discovery was “no big deal. …The plane is flying just great. There’s no reason for concern, it’s just your landing is going to be a little messy.”

He said the mishap occurred as he was practicing flying from the back seat, “just for the experience of it.”

“He made a really good landing with a disabled airplane,” said airport manager Willy Williamson.

Curtin, a carpenter who lives near Camp Bonneville north of Camas, said the plane is a replica of a Piper Super Cub and is worth $90,000. He built it in 2008. The damage might be $5,000, he said.

The landing was “kinda like a parking lot dent,” he said, because there was no fire, little damage and no injuries. Well, he said his pride might be hurt and he might get teased by other pilots.

And, he added, “We really don’t like to bend up planes.”

Vancouver police and firefighters were on the scene. The left wheel was put back in place and the plane rolled to its hangar.

The airport was closed for about 30 minutes and some pilots were kept from taking off and landing during that time, Pearson’s Williamson said.

Pearson is home to 175 airplanes. There are an average of 143 takeoffs and landings a day, Williamson said. It is the oldest operating air field in the United States and was first used in 1905, Williamson said.

Williamson said records from the past 10 years show 500,000 takeoffs and landings with no significant injuries at the airport at the Fort Vancouver National Site.

However, he noted, on Aug. 7, 2003, a pilot who had left Pearson crashed onto state Highway 14 but survived uninjured after his experimental 2001 Lancair 360 burst into flames.