Too many EMS trucks or an abundance of caution?

California, MD - On Monday, Nov. 20, at approximately 2:40 p.m., the local Emergency Communications Center received information regarding an aircraft attempting to land at St. Mary’s County Regional Airport, located at 44200 Airport Road, in California.  The plane’s landing gear did not deploy, so the plane, a 1966 Piper PA30 twin engine airplane, was circling the area of the airport to burn fuel, to allow for an emergency landing. and other media reported a plane was "in distress." The accurate description of what happened as described by a seasoned aviator, who sits of the St. Mary's County Airport Commission and asked not to be identified, that this was a gear up "text book" landing. In aviation parlance a plane "in distress" is one that is on fire or running out of gas or something similar. None of these conditions existed. There was an in-flight malfunction, trouble shooting by the pilot and attempted corrective action, and then a well executed gear up landing. "No distress and  very little risk,"according to our source

The pilot, well known in the aviation community--Tony Copezzi--is a master aviator and is known for meticulously maintaining his airplanes. Sometimes things break, and in this case it was the landing gear. Copezzi attempted the back up system which was not successful. At that point he made a decision to intentionally "belly land" the plane, ensuring the engines were shut off before landing to assure there would not be a propeller strike.

As reported--and seen on video--the belly landing was successful with no injury to Copezzi and damage only to the underbelly of the plane. Copezzi flies for a major airline and is also an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-designated pilot examiner. 

Our source from the St. Mary's Airport Commission thinks "there was an overreaction to the incident and deploying assets in such massive numbers is costly to the taxpayer, and begs the question what assets would be available if a major fire broke out in another part of the county." 

Several Fire, Rescue and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) units responded en mass, even hook and ladder trucks. On one hand there were plenty of assets on the ground but were there too many? When the Fixed Base Operator(FBO) calls in to the Emergency Management Services is there a protocol in place to determine the level of assistance needed? These questions are likely to be some of  the "lessons learned" considerations going forward.

Contact Martin Fairclough at

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