t's never happened before, and it'll probably never happen again, and that's something Flying Officer Peter Komar is very grateful about.
Flying Officer Komar was with Flight Lieutenant Luke Warner at the controls of a F-111 C-model yesterday, when the jet's left-wing wheel fell off slightly after take-off, forcing the team to make an emergency landing at Amberly.
Flying Officer Komar thought the take-off had been incident-free, before receiving a call from the control tower. "It was pretty close to just after take-off when we brought the gear up," he says, "and very soon after that, the guys in the control tower called us up and said that one of our main wheels was still on the runway."
Flying Officer Komar admits to being a bit shocked by the call. "[I felt] a fair bit of disbelief to begin with, and then it was, ‘oh dear, we’ve got a bit of a problem on our hands, so we better start thinking about troubleshooting'."
The pilot and his navigator then spent three hours circling over South East Queensland, burning off fuel, and making some important decision.
"Even just to dump the field probably wouldn’t have been the best think in that situation because the one thing about the F-111 is that it carries a fair bit of fuel and that gives you time in the air to sort out your problem," Flying Officer Komar says. "So the decision was made to climb and to hold and to go over every single bit of information we could think of."There were basically two options, the first was to land with the gear down, and the second was to land with the gear up, and we also had a bunch of guys on the ground using the simulator and coming up with their recommendations and plans as well, for us to consider, and we came to the decision that probably the best course of action was to land with the gear up."
During those tense three hours in the air, Flying Officer Komar was thinking of his fiancee. "[I thought] I’m going to lond and I’m going to see her, and I’m going to say, 'oh this happened today, but everything was OK' and she’s going to come back with, 'well, that’s it, you’re not allowed to fly anymore!'" he laughed.
As Flying Officer Komar approached the landing, his training started to kick in. "There is always a bit of doubt – you’re going to fly an approach really close to the ground, and things can go wrong, and that definitely crosses your mind, but I guess, there’s so much training involved, as you’re flying, and as you’re flying the approach, that’s all you’re focused on," he comments.
After seeing the landing numerous times on television news stories, Flying Officer Komar notes the landing looks a bit easier than it was. "It looked like a pretty benign landing on the telly – it didn’t feel like it in the jet!"
And now he can't wait to get back in the pilot's seat. "I’m actually pretty keen to go flying again, it was just one of those things – never happened before, and probably will never happen again."