LANDING GEAR TROUBLE
A Star Marianas Airlines aircraft with a malfunctioning landing gear made a successful emergency landing on Runway 24 at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International airport last Wednesday at 6:10pm.
On board were five passengers and two crewmember, including Capt. Jun Shimada, the airline’s chief pilot who was operating the Piper PA-31-350 Chieftain.
Shimada was able to land the aircraft safely at the Saipan airport with all its passengers and crew unharmed.
Star Marianas president Shaun Christian commended Shimada for expertly landing the aircraft even if its landing gear didn’t fully extend for landing.
“We are grateful to him for not forgetting his training and was not overwhelmed by the situation. No harm was brought to the passengers and crew and only minimal damage on the aircraft. He handled it as a true professional that he is.”
The flight departed on time from Rota’s Benjamin Taisacan Manglona International Airport at 4:45pm. Immediately after taking off, Shimada reported experiencing multiple bird strikes that forced him to retract the aircraft’s landing gear.
Christian said that Shimada noticed a flock of birds, 10 to 20 of them, that crossed paths with the aircraft.
According to the Star Marianas press release, Shimada reported that the gear indicator did not light up to confirm if the gear truly retracted but noticed a decrease in the normal cruising airspeed. By the time they were approaching Tinian, Shimada attempted to extend the landing gear and noted that the hydraulic pressure was insufficient.
Shimada made several low passes on Tinian so the Star Marianas maintenance facility on island can assess the situation and confirmed that only the right main gear was partly extended. After several attempts to lower the gear, a decision was made to continue the flight to Saipan and land on Runway 24.
Christian said the emergency landing did not disrupt any flights coming in and out of the airport. “The aircraft continued to stay in the air for 45 minutes to burn fuel to reduce landing weight. This gave Cape Air time to depart on schedule.”
“The aircraft landed smoothly and Saipan’s Airport Rescue and Firefighting personnel were there. The passengers were transported safely in vehicles provided by the Commonwealth Ports Authority. Everything worked well,” he added.
Star Marianas reported that upon landing, the aircraft’s right main wheel was extended, but the left main and nose wheel remained in the upward position. This caused the aircraft’s left wing to contact the ground as the aircraft slowed to a stop and slid unto the grass past the Delta taxiway.
CPA executive director Chris Tenorio was relieved that nothing untoward happened with the Star Marianas aircraft’s passengers and crew.
“We are glad that the passengers are safe and sound as that is our main concern. Despite what happened, we conducted normal operations and everything went smoothly,” he said.
Tenorio added that they are still waiting for the final reports of the ARFF and Saipan’s Air Operations Area before they can issue an official statement about the incident as they are still compiling everything.
“At the moment, our issue now is to be able to find equipment to move the aircraft. We need cranes and currently, there are no cranes available on island. We are working hard to find equipment and we are happy to say that the aircraft is definitely repairable,” Christan said.
“Right now, the report from Shimada is unchanged as there was no injury and despite what happened, we assure the public that Star Marianas continues its operations to serve them,” he added.
Christian said that Shimada has been working with Star Marianas for six years but has been flying longer than that.
“Shimada is a lover of aviation. Even in his off days, it’s hard to keep him away from doing any work for Star Marianas. We are glad we have him on board,” he said.