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This item originally appeared in the November 4, 2004 issue of The Tech Talk.


Staff Writer

No one was injured when a student-piloted Tech airplane landed on its belly around 6 p.m. Thursday at the Arcadia-Bienville Parish Airport.

Nathan Loftin, a graduate flight instructor, and Michael Shauff, a senior professional aviation major, were the only passengers in the 20-year-old Cessna 172-RG when it touched down with its landing gear up. At press time, the passengers were unavailable for comment.

"We have regular safety meetings, but when you operate a plane, incidents can happen," Dale Sistrunk, head of the department of professional aviation and a professor of professional aviation, said.

Sistrunk said the same problem happened with the same airplane last May, but different individuals were involved.

"The plane seems to be working fine so it's possible that it could be pilot error, but right now I can not say for sure," Sistrunk said.

Sistrunk said the program has been recognized several times in the past by the Federal Aviation Administration for its commitment to safety and there have been no injuries since he joined the faculty in 1985.

Dr. Ed Jacobs, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and a professor of English, said he agrees with Sistrunk that student welfare is the university's main concern.

"Safety is paramount," Jacobs said.

"The most important thing for us is that while there was a problem with the landing gear, there were no injuries to students.

"It is unfortunate that it happened, but the most fortunate thing is that the student flight instructor and student pilot were not injured."

While everyone involved remained unharmed, the plane itself did not share the same fate.

Both blades of the propeller were bent into a J-shape when they struck the runway asphalt during the landing.

Skid marks on the runway indicate the plane hit the runway and skipped twice before sliding to a stop. The plane also left many small wire fragments scattered around the skid marks.

Other damage includes multiple scrapes to the sheet metal on the plane's underside and a broken Automatic Direction Finding censor antenna.

Fred Hampton, owner of Hampton Enterprises in Mena, Ark. (the company which will repair the plane), flew in Friday morning to assess the damage.

Hampton said the propeller will need to be replaced, the engine will be broken down and rebuilt with any new parts that are needed, and the sheet metal will need to be replaced.

Hampton estimated the repairs will take six to eight weeks and cost $40,000.

Sistrunk said the cost of repairs is covered by insurance through the state of Louisiana.

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