It's a weekly occurrence, sometimes twice. The scanners on the Assignment Desk come alive with the sound tones followed by the voice of a Guilford County 911 dispatcher who dispatches Fire and EMS units to PTI airport.
Sometimes it's an Alert 1, sometimes Alert 2 but you can bet that whenever this particular scanner action happens that some lucky photog from our shop will hit the highway awaiting further instruction while enroute.
Today it was my turn, again. I had been editing a sweeps piece, but had just hit the road to Greensboro for another sweeps shoot that ended up being cancelled. Just as I started to turn around and head back to the edit bay my mobile scanners came alive with the sounds of an Alert 2.
A plane was inbound with a landing gear malfunction. It's right landing gear was stuck halfway up (or down depending on how you look at it). It was 30 miles out and inbound to runway 23.
As soon as I heard the call I made the turn North on 311 to make the, not as easy as it should be, trip to the airport. It wasn't long after that my pager buzzed from the desk with instructions for me to head that way. I grabbed my phone and relayed my status drove on with an ear to the scanner for the words that so often follow the Alerts.
"All units responding to Alert at PTI, cancel, plane has landed safely."
But not this time. I didn't hear much in the time frame that I thought the plane should have landed. I checked and double checked my frequencies as I neared the airport thinking I may get to the airport in time to see the plane land. I was just arriving at the airport when the desk called me telling me to cancel, but I told them I hadn't heard the airport cancel the emergency crews, only that some units were being released from the scene.
In fact the plane had landed and I only missed it by a few minutes. It touched down on the runway with it's right gear still not deployed as it should be and the plane skidded off the right side of the runway and into the grass before coming to a stop.
There were 4 people on the plane and no one was hurt.
The main runway to the airport was closed down and all flights in and out of the airport was sent down to the shorter runway runs parallel to Market Street.