Plane with three aboard lands without landing gear at Australian airport

A light plane with three people aboard landed safely without landing gear Monday after circling an Australian airport for almost three hours to burn off fuel.

The 53-year-old pilot and his passengers, a 60-year-old man and 65-year-old woman, walked unaided from the twin-turboprop Beechcraft Super King Air after landing on a runway at Newcastle Airport north of Sydney, Police Superintendent Wayne Humphrey said.

The pilot “made a textbook wheels-up landing, which I was very happy to see,” Humphrey told reporters at the airport.

Paramedics checked all three at the airport but none needed to be taken to the hospital, Humphrey said.

The plane had just taken off from Newcastle for a 180-kilometer (112-mile) flight north to Port Macquarie when the pilot raised the alarm about “issues with the landing gear,” Humphrey said.

The plane landed on the tarmac around three hours later at 12:20 p.m. without incident, video showed. Fire engines and ambulances were among emergency services standing at the ready.

The plane is owned by Port Macquarie-based Eastern Air Services, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Aviation safety expert Ron Bartsch said the pilot would have decided to return to Newcastle because the airport had better emergency response resources than was available at Port Macquarie.

“The pilot has done quite a copy book landing and got everybody on the ground safely, and that’s the most important outcome,” Bartsch said. “The situation could’ve been a lot worse.”

“They have to shut off the fuel, shut off the electrics to reduce the chance of a fire upon doing a belly-up landing. But obviously the pilot has done this textbook-style and safe outcome,” Bartsch added.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau would investigate what happened. The runway would remain closed for 24 hours while its condition was assessed, but damage to the tarmac appeared to be “superficial,” Humphrey said.

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