WMU News

WMU aviation student makes successful emergency landing

July 26, 1999

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- An Aer Lingus cadet is unharmed after making a successful emergency landing northwest of the W.K. Kellogg Airport today, when he encountered engine difficulties during a routine training flight.

'Conor O'Dwyer, a male cadet flying solo in a Cessna 172 airplane, broadcast an alert to the airport tower at about 9:20 a.m. and made a successful landing without engine power in a field about a mile west of Highway M 43 in Delton and about 14 miles northwest of the airport. The cadet pilot was making a steep turn at high altitude when the engine stopped. Following standard procedure, the pilot leveled the wings and prepared the aircraft for a forced landing; this involves gliding the aircraft into the wind to the largest field to carry out a so-called dead-stick landing.

"The cadet accomplished this showing excellent judgment," said David Thomas, interim director of WMU's College of Aviation. "The aircraft was not damaged and the student was not injured. The engine problem is now under investigation."

Members of the Delton Fire Department found the pilot and plane immediately and reported the student was unharmed and the plane appeared undamaged. The student will be checked by medical personnel as a precaution. Federal Aviation Administration officials in Grand Rapids have been alerted to the event and will investigate its cause.

The cadet is part of Shamrock 5 -- the fifth class of Aer Lingus cadets to begin training at Western Michigan University's International Pilot Training Centre since the airline selected WMU as a training site in January 1998.

Thomas says cadet and student pilots are routinely taught such emergency landing procedures long before they are allowed to fly solo and the training paid off in this instance. "While flying with an instructor, students make what we call PFLs -- practice forced landings -- so that they know how to handle that type of landing should the need arise," Thomas says.

Thomas notes that the 60-year-old aviation program has a stellar safety record with no injuries to students ever recorded. In addition to Aer Lingus, Ireland's national airline, WMU has contracts to train pilots for British Airways and Emirates Airlines. WMU operates some 60 training aircraft.

"Our goal, of course, is to minimize risk and have a completely safe environment," Thomas says. "But the dramatic increase in the amount of flying done at this facility increases the opportunity for such instances to occur."

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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