Pilot Vartan Seferian had just taken off in his Cessna 310 from Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling on Wednesday when he knew there was a problem.
“I hear a popping noise and realize something is wrong,” said Seferian, of Long Grove, who was bound for Janesville, Wis., with his friend, Howard Norber, of Chicago.
In a mirror, Seferian could see the front landing gear was wobbly on the twin-prop Cessna.
But after circling Chicago Executive for about two hours — and with what he called “a one billion percent team effort” — Seferian was able to land the plane. The aircraft was damaged, but Seferian and Norber were not injured.
It wasn’t the first time Seferian went through such an experience, he said. Six years ago, he was unhurt when a plane he was piloting developed mechanical problems and crashed in Lansing, Mich., he said.
After problems arose Wednesday, Seferian notified the control tower and tried to resolve the problem. He and Norber, also a pilot, even read the plane’s manual. He circled the airport to burn off fuel to lessen the chance of a fire in case there was a crash landing.
“I was feeling physically good,” Seferian said. “But mentally, I was thinking about my family, my wife my kids and the reality that I have to fly and land this airplane.”
He said those on the ground were helping and added that advice was sought from other pilots on the best way to approach a landing.
“Everybody helped out,” Seferian said. “It was a one billion percent team effort.”
Seferian’s wife, Barb, said it would take her “a little while to process this.”
“But my main concern was with his health,” she said. “The fact that he is OK is a big relief.”
According to Chief Keith MacIsaac, of the Wheeling Fire Department, Seferian landed the plane on its two rear wheels about 1:45 p.m. while the front wheel under the nose remained disabled. After landing, Seferian shut off the engine, gradually lowered the nose of the plane and skidded to a stop, MacIsaac said. Along with the damage to the plane, there was a small fuel spill.
Jamie Abbott, executive director of Chicago Executive Airport, said National Transportation Safety Board employees will be at the airport Thursday to determine what malfunctioned with the plane.
Responders from the Wheeling and Prospect Heights fire departments were on hand when the plane landed. Paramedics examined the pilot and passenger.
Seferian said some passengers were injured in the crash he was involved in six years ago, but he did not provide specifics.The planes in both incidents were “checked and certified” prior to the flights.
Barb Seferian said she would not hesitate to fly with her husband.
“I know he is a really good pilot and I would fly with him again,” she said. “This is not about his skills. Obviously, it was an act of God that this has happened twice and he walked away with no scratches.”
Chicago Tribune contributed.
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