Plane limps in for landing at Mid-Contin

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Officials praise the pilot of the US Airways Express turboprop for safely touching down despite a landing-gear malfunction.
BY ROXANA HEGEMAN
Associated Press

A US Airways Express turboprop plane carrying 16 people landed safely Thursday at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport after its nose wheel locked in a half-open position.

The Beech 1900 aircraft came down gently about 1:30 p.m., although the nose gear partially collapsed.

"This pilot did a beautiful, beautiful job of putting this airplane on the runway," airport director Bailis Bell said.

An early report of a female passenger receiving minor injuries was likely due to the woman's pre-existing bad back, Bell said.

Around 4:30 p.m., all passengers boarded a plane that took them back to their original destinations of Manhattan and Salina, Air Midwest spokeswoman Benet Wilson said.

She said that, because of the investigation into the accident, the plane's pilot and passengers were not available for comment.

Flight 5641 had just taken off from Kansas City, Mo., for a flight to Manhattan and then on to Salina, Bell said, when the flight crew noticed that the nose wheel had not retracted fully but was locked in a 45-degree position.

Because US Airways Express is affiliated with Wichita-based Air Midwest, which has a maintenance facility in Wichita, the crew decided to route the flight to Mid-Continent Airport, Bell said.

The craft circled Mid-Continent to give the control tower crew a chance to visually inspect the landing gear, Bell said, after which the decision was made to proceed with the landing.

The pilot shut down the engines before landing so that the propeller blades would not gouge the runway and break apart, Bell said.

There was no immediate explanation for why the nose wheel became locked.

One runway was closed for about 90 minutes, Bell said, but there were no interruptions in service at the airport.
 
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