Local pilot and his family survive emergency landing at Chattanooga airport
An equipment malfunction quickly turned a family's normal trip home from Florida into an emergency landing in Chattanooga. The small plane skidded off the runway at the Chattanooga airport Tuesday afternoon.
Ronnie Jones, who was flying the 1965 Cessna 210 plane, says his wife Amanda and 18-month-old son Lincoln were flying in from vacation in Destin, Florida. They were planning to land at an airport in Dayton, Tennessee, where they live.
He has made that trip twice, but this time he says he and his family were preparing to crash.
“I prayed my family is okay after this. I just prayed that Amanda and Lincoln is walking away from this ,” Jones said.
That's the prayer Jones says he recited in his head as the wheels he needed to safely land dangled from his plane.
“The one nose wheel was the only wheel that was out the other two were just flailing in the back,” he said. “We cycled it up a couple of times and couldn't get it to do anything. We did some flyovers in Dayton and Dayton pretty much said they preferred we go to Chattanooga.”
That's when Jones says he and his wife knew they would have to make an emergency landing. Their son Lincoln was strapped in his car seat, surrounded by pillows Jones' wife tucked around him.
“I told her at one point when we were circling that those fire trucks, those ambulances are here for us and that's a tough pill to swallow when you get to that point. It's just scary,” Jones said. “In my head I'm thinking this is going to roll, there's going to be some bumps and bruises, but we're going to get away from it. I never went to that point where I was thinking this is it.”
But in seconds, which felt like minutes, Jones safely landed and they all walked off without a scratch. However, Jones says the plane will likely be totaled.
“It doesn't look as bad as it felt honestly. It looks better than what I had pictured it to be,” Mrs. Jones said.
Looking back, with roughly 120 flying hours under his belt, Jones says he's not a hero.
“Am I this amazingly skilled pilot who can just perform miracles? No,” he said. “Can God? Yes and at the end of the day that's all we look to.”
This won't keep that family of three from flying. They say they're looking to buy a safer plane. Jones is even flying to Kenya for a mission trip.