Plane makes safe emergency landing at Cape Girardeau Regional Airport

Friday, October 15, 2010
Pilot Doug Morley, of Toronto, fixes a damaged part of his landing gear Thursday at Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. The wheel cover was damaged after hitting some birds in flight. He made a safe emergency landing in Cape Girardeau. (Bob Miller)

After the birds, at least two of them, struck his single-engine Cirrus SR-22 Thursday afternoon, Doug Morley wasn't sure how serious it was.

"We didn't know," said the 68-year-old amateur pilot. "It was a flock of as many as 100 birds. They came out of nowhere. We just weren't able to avoid them."

He and his wife, Carol, were traveling at 150 mph at an altitude 1,800 feet somewhere above St. Louis. His first reaction was that he was relieved the birds hadn't hit the plane's windshield.

"They would have come right through," he said. "We were just elated that didn't happen."

He radioed back to his six other friends that were following behind in three planes. The group of friends from Canada were vacationing together as part of a flying club they call Buttonville, named for their suburb south of Toronto.

In the past, they had gone together to the Bahamas, and other places with a special focus on Civil War spots like Gettysburg, Pa.

This trip was about following the path of the Mississippi River. They had intended to get to Memphis, Tenn., by Thursday night before heading through to Gulfport, Miss., today.

Now, after the birds, they were going to have to make a pit stop. One that could be dangerous, considering how bad the damage was.

Morley radioed to the airport next in their path in Cape Girardeau. Morley wanted the tower there to inspect the plane. At about 2 p.m., officials with the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport spotted the plane and inspected it in the air, noticing that the landing gear was damaged.

Morley was asked by those in the airport tower if they wanted emergency personnel contacted before he attempted to land and he said he did. His friends landed, while Morley and his wife circled the airport for 10 minutes.

Once on the ground, their friends worried.

"We didn't know how badly the wheel had been damaged," Geoff Wood said. "If that wheel locked up enough, the plane would have cartwheeled."

With firetrucks standing by, the plane landed while Morley's friends watched and waited. The plane landed safely and the friends hugged, made jokes about Canada geese and answered questions from airport officials and emergency responders.

"We don't get too many of these bird strikes," said airport manager Bruce Loy. "They're rare."

The friends got to work immediately on trying to repair the plane's landing gear. They planned on getting it fixed as soon as possible and getting back up in the air and to Memphis by nightfall.

"The emergency response and the airport guys were amazing," Morley said. "We were glad they were here. We were lucky. Now we just want to get this fixed and hopefully have no more problems here on out."

smoyers@semissourian.com

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Pertinent address:

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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