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Amy Dalrymple, Published December 10 2009

Fargo pilot makes emergency landing in Wyoming

A Fargo pilot en route to his friend’s funeral made an emergency landing Wednesday in Casper, Wyo., after the plane’s landing gear failed.

Stewart Peterson spent nearly an hour trying to manually lower the landing gear, but was forced to land the plane on its belly as it ran out of fuel.

Peterson was flying from Fargo with the parents of his late friend, Tom Noonan, to the funeral in Casper.

“The passengers were a little shook up, but no one got hurt,” said Peterson, 55, who has been flying since he was 17.

Peterson was flying a Piper Comanche, a four-seat aircraft he rented from Vic’s Aircraft Sales.

He left Fargo around 11 a.m. with Tom Noonan and Aileen Meyer of Fargo after waiting out some bad weather.

The flight was smooth until the indicator light for the landing gear didn’t turn on.

When Peterson flew by the tower, traffic controllers saw that the landing gear was not down.

He tried to manually pump the gear down using a hydraulic lever, but the landing gear would only go halfway down.

Peterson flew by the tower about 12 times trying different things until the plane was nearly out of fuel.

“I exhausted all my possibilities, and when I started running out of fuel, then it was time to put her in,” Peterson said.

The plane ran out of fuel just as it landed on the runway. Jim Pattan, public safety captain for the Casper/

Natrona County International Airport, said Peterson handled the situation well.

“Really, he did a fantastic job with it,” Pattan said. “I’ve seen pilots do rougher landings with the gear down.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating what caused the malfunction.

Peterson, who has never made a forced landing before, said he has flown this particular plane many times. He owns his own plane, but rents higher-performance planes for longer trips.

The plane had minimal damage, Peterson said.

The funeral for his friend, a 55-year-old Fargo North graduate who liked to be called Tommy II, is today in Casper. A death notice says he died Dec. 1 following an illness.

Peterson, who owns North Country Marketing in West Fargo, said he’ll likely rent a car and drive back to Fargo with Noonan and Meyer.

Throughout the ordeal, Peterson said he was too focused to be scared.

“You’re so busy trying to get things to work that you don’t really think about anything else,” Peterson said. “I’m just thankful everybody’s OK.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590