Dramatic story had a great ending

Saturday, July 23, 2005

What started out as a routine afternoon turned out to be one for the history books. Thankfully, July 13, 2005, turned out well for five people directly involved in the drama at the McCook Regional Airport, as well as for those of us watching it unfold.

In case you've been out of town -- make that out of the country -- for the last week, here's the story in a nutshell:

Pilot Jim Hagert and mechanic Krent Townsend of Danbury, who work for Griff Malleck of Red Willow Aviation, took off in a 1963 Cessna 210, owned by Mick Brosius of North Platte, and found that the landing gear wouldn't completely extend and lock into place.

Rather than risk an emergency landing with gear partially extended, everyone involved decided to try something they had seen on television -- a mid-air fix.

Thanks to a full load of fuel in the plane as well as the special skills of the pilot as well as a hastily assembled ground crew of Jeff Williams of Oberlin, a race car driver at the wheel of Red Willow Aviation's pickup truck, Jeff Polly of K & J Tire and spray plane pilot Toby Cox in the back, after 10 passes, all three gear were down and locked.

Those of us on the scene knew we were watching something special, but the attention the incident drew affirmed our opinion. The following morning, a reader of the Atlanta, Ga., newspaper called the Gazette to get more information -- his paper had carried an early AP photo with a caption written before all of the information was available.

We heard from others who saw the photo or read the story as far as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. A national morning television show called about the photo, and the Reader's Digest has obtained reprint rights.

Unfortunately, we were unable to take video of the event, and don't know of anyone else who did. If they did, they may have something valuable.

But all in all, presenting our readers with a great story with a good ending is one of the most rewarding parts of being in the news business.

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