Dr. Ian Kovach, orthopedic surgeon of Pratt, landed his plane without incident Monday at the Pratt Regional Airport after a stuck landing gear caused some tense moments on his return flight Monday morning from Taos, N.M.


Dr. Ian Kovach, orthopedic surgeon of Pratt, landed his plane without incident Monday at the Pratt Regional Airport after a stuck landing gear caused some tense moments on his return flight Monday morning from Taos, N.M.

The problem appears to have been a failure of either an electric motor or hydraulic pump that are both part of the landing gear system, said Randy Huitt, Pratt Regional Airport fixed base operator who is working on the airplane.

The plane has a backup system that relieves the hydraulic pressure on the landing system, then the weight of the landing gear combines with a spring assist and air flow brings the gear down and locked it in place, Huitt said.

The problem occurred during climb out at Taos. The landing gear on the 1978 Piper Seneca got stuck half way up and wouldn’t go up or down, Kovach said.

“I couldn’t get it to move either way,” Kovach said.

Kovach and his wife Laurie had spent the weekend in Taos and were returning to Pratt Monday morning when the problem occurred.

When the landing gear failed to retract, Kovach decided to continue on to Pratt rather than remain in the Taos area and try to land at the Taos airport.

He needed time to figure out the problem and figured he would fly to Pratt while he worked on the landing gear.

“I wanted time to recycle the landing gear,” Kovach said.

The flight time to Pratt would also allow him to burn off fuel in case he had to make a gear-up  (belly) landing at the Pratt airport, Kovach said.

Kovach also wanted as many safety advantages as possible. Taos is around 7,000 feet elevation and Pratt is around 2,000 feet elevation. Airplanes require more speed to operate efficiently at higher altitudes and Kovach wanted to land the plane at a slower landing speed for safety.

The Piper is serviced at Pratt and the crews already knew the airplane so that was also a factor in deciding to return to Pratt.

Kovach notified Pratt Regional Airport about the problem and emergency services were notified. The airport is part of the city so the Pratt Fire Department sent a truck and was joined by Pratt County EMS and Pratt County Rescue.

On the return flight Kovach worked to recycle the hydraulic system and was finally able to get the landing gear down and locked about 30 miles from Pratt.

The rescue equipment remained in place as Kovach did a flyby to allow Huitt and other rescue personnel an opportunity to visually inspect the landing gear before the plane attempted to touch down.

Huitt notified Kovach that the landing gear looked good. He circled the airport and made his approach from the south. He brought the plane in for a smooth landing with no problems.

The emergency vehicles quickly followed Kovach down the runway but were not needed as the plane taxied to the hanger to a safe stop.

Huitt got on the plane wing, opened the door and after a few words, Kovach and Laurie disembarked and shook hands with emergency and rescue crews, thanking them for being on hand.

Kovach said he had prepared himself for a wheels-up landing and was confident he could have belly landed safely if an emergency landing had been necessary.