WATERVILLE — A pilot escaped injury Wednesday morning when the landing gear collapsed shortly after landing at Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport.

Following the landing, the small commercial plane was turning onto the taxiway around 8 a.m. when the right landing gear collapsed, damaging the plane and causing a leak of hydraulic fluid.

The Beechcraft Model 99 plane, operated by Freight Runners Express, was carrying a load of United Parcel Services packages from Manchester, New Hampshire, to Waterville, according to airport Manager Randy Marshall.

The Waterville fire and police departments responded to the scene, where the blue and white plane was listing to the right on the taxiway.

“The incident plan we put together worked perfectly,” Marshall said just after 9 a.m., as the pilot walked around the plane, surveying the damage. “Luckily, it was a relatively minor incident, all things considered.”

Marshall said the runways were shut down after the incident and officials were awaiting Federal Aviation Administration permission to move the aircraft, which has moderate damage to the landing gear wing.

“I’ve been in touch with the regional operations center and the Portland field office and we’re coordinating,” Marshall said.

The plane landed on Runway 2-3, heading south, and was getting ready to turn right onto the taxiway when the landing gear collapsed, according to Marshall.

“As he negotiated the turn, the landing gear just let go,” he said.

He said Freight Runners has been operating at the city-owned airport only for the last couple of months. Wiggins Airways operated from the airport previously.

“Freight Runners has been phenomenal to work with,” he said. “Their aircraft always appears to be in great shape. This was just a freak thing.”

Randy Marshall, manager of the Waterville municipal airport, is seen in front of a small freight plane Wednesday morning after it crash landed there. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

At the scene Wednesday morning, sawdust and absorbent pads covered the hydraulic fluid. Marshall said there had been no fuel leak.

“Everything went really well,” Marshall said. “I’m just glad nobody was hurt. We should have a maintenance crew on-site from Manchester, New Hampshire, around lunchtime, and we’ll coordinate with Central Maine crane out of Oakland. They’ll come and assist in getting the plane hoisted. We’ll look at what we need to do to get the aircraft off the field. We’ll come up with a game plan on having it safely removed. We’ll probably be open around three or four o’clock this afternoon.”

Freight Runners is a U.S. aircraft carrier based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The planes carry UPS packages to and from Manchester, New Hampshire, daily, according to Marshall.

Marshall responded to the incident Wednesday, though he is on vacation and slated to be married on Saturday.


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