(WASHINGTON TIMES HERALD) - About 70 passengers and four crew members are safe and sound thanks to a Washington native's cool head after landing gear malfunctioned on the commercial passenger plane he was flying Monday from Atlanta to Newark.
42-year-old Michael Walden a 1987 Washington High School graduate, was piloting an Embraer 170 for United Shuttle Air Express when the incident occurred on approach to Newark Liberty International Airport. According to his mother, Kay Walden of Washington, the nose landing gear didn't deploy like it should.
Walden did a fly-by so the tower could see if the gear was down and they verified the nose gear was not down, so they went around and made the approach and landed without it.
Kay Walden praises God for her son and the passenger safety. She is pretty proud of her boy. Her husband, Bryan, talked to their son after the incident.
She said Michael will have to go through a debriefing of sorts with his company and the National Transportation Safety Board, and they'll determine the cause and who or what was responsible for the incident.
It's not the first time Michael has had a scary airborne event. He was co-pilot on a chartered Learjet that had taken off from a downtown St. Louis airport and hit a flock of birds. Both jets shut down and the plane went down in field. He helped the two passengers out and a few minutes later, not long after the pilot finally got out, the jet went up in flames. Michael and the pilot sustained back injuries in that crash.
Michael got his start flying in Daviess County, taking instruction from his dad and obtaining his license.
He went to Indiana State University for the pro pilot program and got his instrument and instructor ratings while at ISU. He was airport manager at Sullivan Airport for a few years, where he also was an instructor. While he was there, he worked on his multi-engine rating so he could fly planes other than the single-engine variety.
From there, Michael left the Hoosier state for Festus, Mo., where he did charter work and some instruction.He's been employed by Shuttle America, which is owned by Republic Airway Holdings of Indianapolis.
Michael lives in Crystal City, Mo., with his wife, Donya, and their 4-year-old daughter, Addison. He has three step-daughters: Chelsea, 22; Casey, 20; and Cara, 18.
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