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Talofa Airways pilot files report on incident involving a collapsed landing gear

This Jan. 11, 2018 photo, circulated on social media, shows the Talofa Airways plane on its belly on the taxi-way at the main terminal at Pago Pago International Airport.  [Facebook photo]

An incident report by the pilot of a Talofa Airways plane that endured a landing gear problem at the Pago Pago International Airport last Thursday — a problem that occurred after the plane landed safely — was presented yesterday to senators and read in part in Samoan by Port Administration director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Poumele, during a Senate Transportation/ Port Administration Committee hearing.

Taimalelagi, who said her office received the Jan. 12th report Wednesday, translated the report into the Samoan language, as it was written in English.

As Samoa News reported on Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor says the plane landed safely on Runway 5; and while the aircraft was taxiing, the main landing gear collapsed.

According to the pilot’s report, the Talofa Airways flight on Jan. 11th departed Fagali’i International Airport in Samoa for Pago Pago, 51 minutes behind schedule due to adjustments made to the nose wheel by the airline’s engineer in order to “correct a shimmy condition” reported by the crew from the previous day.

The pilot explained in the report that the take-off, climb, cruise, descent, approach and landing phase of the aircraft “were all normal” with good VFR conditions around; “however, upon touchdown [at the airport] the nose wheel developed a moderate shimmy which divided my attention in managing the vibration and completing the after landing checks.”

As a result, the report says, the “after landing checks were momentarily deferred and was initiated existing the runway via tax-way Charlie”. (This taxi-way takes the plane to tarmac at the main terminal, while Runway 5 is the one closer to the Pala Lagoon side of the airport).

“In the process of actioning the after landing checks, I mistook the landing gear for flaps and selected the landing gear to the retract position resulting in the main gears retracting and bringing the aircraft to a quick stop with the aft of the aircraft resting on the ground,” the pilot wrote in the report, noting that at the point of retraction, the aircraft was at a slow taxi speed.

 “After the aircraft had come to a complete stop, I promptly shut down and secured both engines,” the pilot wrote. “As a safety precaution, I did not re-power the aircraft's battery to call for assistance.”

The pilot assessed the passengers and the aircraft's surrounding was safe but he elected to wait inside the aircraft for assistance, which came about 10 minutes later at which point the pilot opened the door and disembarked the passengers without further incident.

Sen. Magalei Logovi’i, who was among the nine passengers on board the flight, told Samoa News last Thursday that they waited inside the plane for 10 minutes, and a vehicle stopped by on the runway, to check on the plane, and the passengers were able to get off the runway.

Magalei voiced serious concerns over the long delay before the airport rescue crew showed up. His concerns, supported by other senators, prompted yesterday’s Senate committee hearing, where Taimalelagi showed up with six senior airport officials, whom the director described as the airport management team, that she considers “polofesa” or professors [on airport management issues].

Samoa News will report next week on the hearing.