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By Miriam Raftery

December 24, 2022 (El Cajon) – A small plane experienced an emergency over Gillespie Field in El Cajon last night, when its landing gear failed to lock into place.  Heartland Fire Department responded in preparation for a potential emergency landing while the plane, which had an hour and a half of fuel, circled repeatedly over the area for nearly an hour looping left to right, struggling to manually lower the landing gear. 

The pilot of the plane, a Piper PA-28 Cherokee with tail number P28S, reported the emergency at 5:29 p.m.  First responders including firefighters and an ambulance arrived at 5:30 and the area was cleared in anticipation of a potential hard landing.

On social media, residents offered prayers for the pilot and some voiced concerns over the aircraft in distress potentially crashing into homes below the flight path after repeated efforts failed to lock in the front landing gear.


At 6:30 p.m., an hour after the emergency began and with only a half hour of fuel remaining, the pilot brought the plane in safely, with landing gear down but not locked. Fortunately, the nose of the plane did not touch the ground, and there were no injuries.


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