A rash of accidents at the Salt Lake International Airport has kept crews hopping this past week.
Four incidents, including two belly landings, have kept airport crews busy since Jan. 19, said airport operations manager Ron Malin."Hopefully, things have run their little course here and will be back to normal again," Malin said Friday.
The latest incident occurred Thursday when a Beech Baron aircraft made an inadvertent belly landing when the pilot apparently pulled the wrong lever as he set the plane down. The pilot told airport officials he meant to put the flaps down but accidently pulled the lever that retracted the landing gear. The result was a 3,000 foot skid down the runway and an estimated $60,000 to $75,000 damage to the aircraft.
The incidents began the night of Jan. 19 when an air taxi on a medical run made a belly landing on runway 34 left, the main commercial runway, during heavy fog. The pilot apparently failed to engage the aircraft's landing gear, causing the belly landing of the plane, which was carrying a premature newborn on its way to the University Medical Center.
Hours later, about 5 p.m. Jan. 20, a Beechcraft King Air twin-engine aircraft clipped the approach light tower, knocking it out of service. The FAA is still awaiting parts to restore the lights, but their absence is not considered a safety risk.
A third incident occurred Jan. 22, when a Boeing 707's left engine caused a 50-foot gash in the surface of the runway.
Things had returned to relative calm until Thursday's belly landing.
The Boeing accident occurred when the aircraft "crabbed" slightly as it landed, meaning the plane was slightly sideways, causing a strong jolt and allowing the engine to dip down and hit the surface of the runway.
Malin said pilots routinely "crab" their aircraft when landing in strong crosswinds to offset the wind effect. He said there appeared to be no crosswinds Sunday, however.
All four incidents will be investigated by the FAA. Malin said it is too early to speculate on the causes although he doesn't believe the heavy fog contributed to the rash of problems.
"As far as the fog goes, we had some very dense fog last week," Malin said. "This isn't rare anymore with the inversions we seem to get every year. I'm glad we only get it for a few days at a time."
Although the initial belly landing closed the main runway for a few hours, flights diverted to Ogden and Hill Air Force Base were detoured by fog conditions more than the crash problems, Malin said.