Plane makes hard landing at Langley airpark after pilot forgets to lower the wheels

It would have been a perfect landing, Fred Lundahl said.

If only he’d remembered to put the wheels down.

“I realized it a split second before the propeller hit the asphalt,” Lundahl said.

Lundahl and his two passengers were in his small Cessna Comanche single-engine four-seater airplane Friday afternoon approaching Whidbey Airpark near Langley when the incident occurred.

“The plane stayed nice and upright, didn’t swerve or spin, and came to a stop,” he said Monday. “The passengers were a bit surprised at the short distance to the ground, when it had been a longer distance when they got in the plane.”

No one was hurt in the hard landing, said Lundahl, a Langley businessman and the president of the Langley Chamber of Commerce.

“The only injuries were bruises to the underbelly of the airplane, and to the ego of the pilot,” he said.

Lundahl and his passengers were returning to Langley about 3 p.m. Friday after participating in a memorial service in Canada for longtime Langley resident Peter Bennett. Lundahl helped scatter Bennett’s ashes over one of Bennett’s favorite kayaking spots.

With him on the trip were Bennett’s widow, Gretchen D’Armand, and her daughter-in-law, Emma Bennett.

The weather was sunny and calm as they neared Whidbey Airpark just southwest of town. Lundahl said he approached the landing strip at the usual speed of about 65 miles per hour and at about a 30-degree angle.

“Normally, the wheels absorb the little bump on landing,” he said. “The two ladies said, ‘What’s that?’ What I said was mostly unprintable. There’s still a dent in my forehead where I hit myself with the palm of my hand.”

Lundahl said his passengers took everything in stride.

“They said thanks for the ride,” Lundahl said. “They were nonplussed. They may have even thought that was normal.”

Lundahl, 64, said he has been flying for 40 years and more than 3,800 hours without incident, until Friday.

“It’s a not-uncommon occurrence,” he said of the failure by small-plane pilots to lower their landing gear. “It usually doesn’t involve injury or major damage to the airplane.”

Lundahl, an avid recreational pilot, said he’ll be back in the air once his plane is repaired.

“It was just the propeller, and a little aluminum scraped off the belly,” he said. “But it’s sad that it happened at the end of such a magical trip.”

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