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Now I Can Say I’ve Closed an Airport

A bout of sickness and some hot, stormy weather had kept me from flying for a few weeks until today.  I’ve switched back to my previous instructor, Ryan.  We flew 1.4 hours in the Trinidad reviewing commercial maneuvers.  We were going to do a few landings at the end of the lesson, but I didn’t get past number two.

My second landing went great at first.  I had good airspeed, a soft touchdown, and was right on the centerline.  This was supposed to be a short-field landing so I applied the brakes.  Soon afterward, moving at what must have been 70 miles per hour, I heard a screech, kind of like the screech you hear when a plane’s tires hit the runway.  Gee, that was strange.  I kept slowing down.  I noticed that all of a sudden I needed a lot of right rudder to keep the plane on the centerline.  Then I started drifting to the left, away from the centerline.  I never do that!  I was saying, “Wow, I’m really drifting for some reason,” when the left wing started lowering.  I actually added aileron to try to bank to the right because I thought a freak wind gust or something was trying to roll me left.  Then it dawned on me…. a blown tire!  After coasting to a stop, the airplane was obviously not sitting correctly.  We talked to the tower controller and shut the plane down.  Ryan got out to look at the left main gear.  We weren’t going anywhere any time soon.  The rubber had almost completely come off the wheel!  If we would have taken much longer to stop we might have ground the metal rim against the runway.

I had stopped just past the intersection of Dubuque’s two runways but not far enough past to be across the hold-short line.  Since the plane was technically stuck at the intersection, the airport was rendered temporarily closed.

It took almost half an hour of brainstorming and hard work to get the plane moving again.  There was no mechanic around to simply change the tire.  So we managed to put the disabled gear leg onto a dolly, the kind that you’d use to work under your car.  The airplane was towed with a tractor.  Very, very, slowly, too!  One runway was re-opened once we crossed the hold-short line.  It took us two hours to tow the airplane from our position back to the University’s hangar.  We had to stop twice to adjust the position of the wheel on the dolly.  We also lost the outsides of three of the six dolly wheels.  Yes, we definitely broke that thing, but it worked for our purpose and kept our 250,000-dollar airplane’s poor wheel off the ground.

Nothing like this has ever happened to me.  It was very interesting to spend over two hours standing on the runway and taxiway.  I am lucky I was able to keep the plane on the runway or things would have been more difficult.  It was just a minor incident and nothing was broken besides a rubber tire and a mechanic’s dolly.  I only wish I would have had my camera.