Close Call At The Middlesboro-Bell County Airport

By Jeff Allen | 

An Eastern Kentucky airport was closed for several hours Thursday after officials say a small plane crashed on the runway.

It happened at the Middlesboro-Bell County Airport where one pilot had a very close call.

We talked to that pilot just after everything happened and he says he was actually coming in for a landing and as soon as he reached the ground, he realized he forgot to put down his landing gear.

"As soon as I saw the bent props and heard scraping, I thought what do I need to do," said Pilot Thomas Lepsch.

He managed to keep control of the single engine plane landing it on its belly. The Middlesboro-Bell County Airport had to be closed for several hours. The pilot was fine and no one else was hurt, but the pilot says it was quite an experience.

"I smelled some smoke, saw sparks under the plane as I went down the runway. I thought, 'I sure hope I don't go up in a ball of flame because my kids aren't ready to lose me yet," he said.

The plane sustained minor damage and the airport was reopened Thursday afternoon after emergency crews used airbags to lift the plane off the runway.

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