The pilot of a Nike corporate jet got a stuck landing gear to drop into place and landed the plane safely after putting it through a series of stressful, high-altitude maneuvers, passenger and Nike CEO William Perez said.
The six-hour drama in the sky over Oregon was carried live Monday on national television. The Gulfstream jet circled to burn off fuel before making the emergency landing at Hillsboro Airport, where it had taken off.
The suburban airport is just west of Portland and near Nike's Beaverton headquarters. Nike Inc. is the world's largest athletic shoe and clothing company.
Besides Perez, two other Nike executives, Perez's assistant and a crew of three were on the plane for a planned flight to Toronto.
The crew was finally able to get the right main landing gear fully extended and locked into place after talking for hours with Gulfstream officials. The plane took off at 6 a.m. and made its emergency landing at 12:11 p.m. on all three wheels.
Perez said the pilot tried various things to try to get the right wheel unstuck, including an ascent to about 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) and "some zero gravity maneuvers."
"We did a few maneuvers and it (the wheel) came down," Perez said. TV footage had showed the wheel only about one-quarter extended shortly after takeoff.
Earlier, the Gulfstream performed two "touch and go" maneuvers at the airport, touching down briefly on the fully extended left landing gear, apparently to try to jostle the right one into place.
"I wasn't worried one bit. You're dealing with professionals in the cockpit and you shouldn't worry," Perez said.
"Everybody was calm. We were sending e-mails. We were talking. The phones were working part of the time. You could use cell phones," he said.
Still, Perez told reporters at the airport that "it's nice to be on the ground."
John O'Meara, chief test pilot for Gulfstream, was at Hillsboro to help the executive jet land. He told MSNBC that "with some basic airmanship on the part of the crew, who did a magnificent job and maintained their calm and demeanor, they were able to get the gear down."
The plane, a Gulfstream V, is a 2002 aircraft acquired by Nike earlier this month, said Joani Komlos, a company spokeswoman. The plane had been through the appropriate testing, she said. The company doesn't know what caused the malfunction but will be working with Gulfstream to find out, Komlos said.
Nike co-founder Phil Knight was not on board the jet. Perez joined the company last year when Knight stepped down from daily management of the company, AP reported. V.A.