A small, twin-engine airplane carrying University of Missouri men’s basketball Coach Kim Anderson had to make an unscheduled landing at St. Clair Regional Airport on Wednesday night.
According to information from the St. Clair Fire Protection District, the plane was having engine trouble, but was able to land safely and without incident at the local facility.
One of the craft’s two engines had stopped working. Initial reports were that the plane had experienced total engine failure.
There were no injuries or damage to the plane. Fire Chief Les Crews said three people were on board, the two pilots and Anderson.
According to published reports, the pilots were Larry Marshall and Jim Mallette.
Anderson was on a “scouting” trip to Illinois when the incident occurred. The plane had left from Columbia earlier in the afternoon.
The dispatch for an “alert” at the airport went out at 5:22 p.m.
“I was nervous,” Anderson told The Missourian when recalling the ordeal. “A lot of things were going through my mind. After the right propeller stopped working, I was fixated on the left one. And, thankfully, it was working well.”
At one time, Anderson said he thought the plane would have to make an emergency landing on Interstate 44, which runs parallel to the runway located on the north side of St. Clair.
“I really didn’t know how dangerous of a situation we were in,” he said. “But I’ve been on enough planes to know that when one of your two propellers shuts down, it isn’t good.
“When we first came down out of the clouds, I saw the interstate. But then I saw all of the flashing (emergency) lights (at the airport). It looked like there were 1,000 lights flashing. Obviously, it wasn’t that many, but there were people already there waiting for us.”
Crews told The Missourian that one of the pilots radioed St. Louis approach control, saying the plane had an engine problem.
The information was relayed to Franklin County dispatch and then to Central County dispatch. Central is the emergency service St. Clair uses.
“They put us on an alert for the airport,” Crews said. “That means there is a plane with difficulties coming in.”
Emergency personnel immediately responded to the scene. Crews said as he arrived, he saw the twin-engine plane come over the tree line to the west of the airport and land safely.
“We were trying to get any additional information on the plane and situation,” the chief said. “Then, we saw it come in and land.
“The pilots did an outstanding job,” Crews said. “They landed as if there wasn’t even a problem.”
“They were solid,” he said. “They never panicked. They were great.”
The coach said he never had flown with the pilots before.
“But, I would again,” he said.
Anderson also said the pilots told him that if the first attempt to land would have been aborted for any reason, there probably would not have been a second chance.
“Apparently, you need both engines to take off,” he said.
Firefighters drove to the far north end of the runway where the plane had taxied after it landed and checked everything. Personnel then assisted with bringing the craft to the hangar area.
State, county and St. Clair law enforcement also were on the scene.
St. Clair Ambulance District Chief Jamie Clayton drove Anderson and the pilots back to Columbia. They stopped for a bite to eat in Union on their way back.
“Everyone there (St. Clair) was great,” Anderson said. “Les and Jamie especially, but everyone there was unbelievable.
“You’re lucky to have these people in your city.”
Anderson is in his first year coaching the Tigers.