SAN DIEGO — Two French pilots were recovering Friday night after their emergency landing at Montgomery Field was deemed a success.
Flight instructor, Jean-Jacques Bellier of San Diego, and a student pilot, Paul Hentong of France, took off in a single engine Cessna from Montgomery Field head to Ramona Friday afternoon.
“When we got the gear down, normally there’s a green light that should come on, and it didn’t,” Bellier said.
The pair discovered their main landing gear would not extend. They contacted Montgomery Field and under the watchful eye of mechanics and engineers, they performed maneuvers to try to lock the landing gear into place, including steep turns.
“[I] even tried to open the door and tried to get the gear to extend with a tool bar,” Bellier said.
Both pilots said they were lucky to have one another in the aircraft to help bounce ideas off one another.
“I fly alone and so I was glad Jean-Jacques was with me today because if you have such [an emergency], it’s difficult if you’re alone in flight,” Honteng said.
Honteng also debated in mid-flight whether he should call his wife to let her know about their situation, “When we were in the aircraft, I have a mobile phone and I thought, ‘Must I call my wife and tell her we are stuck in the airplane?’ And so I said, ‘No,’ she would just worry. So let’s try to do our best and land the aircraft, and I could talk to my wife after.”
They flew in circles near and around Montgomery Field for nearly three hours before deciding to make the emergency landing on runway 23. In the end, the actual landing itself helped pull the pilots out of danger.
“When we landed and we touched down, it lodged the gear and locked it,” Bellier said.
The pilots also admitted they were not too nervous in the air.
“The first two minutes I was scared, and then you think, ‘No.’ You must land the aircraft, so you think about what’s best to do,” Hentong said.
“Well no, it’s not the first time [I’ve experienced] an emergency. I already lost a door in flight and stuff like that, so you know, [this emergency landing] was not my first time,” Bellier said.
Hentong is training for his commercial license and was ecstatic he had real emergency landing training, “I need to do [this type] of training. You do this for a commercial license. You need to train and learn how to put the landing gear down in an emergency. So now I really did it in an emergency situation so it’s good training.”
Both men walked away without any injuries. Montgomery Field resumed normal operations shortly after their landing just before 6 p.m.
Hentong and is wife just arrived to San Diego Thursday and are currently on vacation.