A plane with 3 aboard lands without landing gear at an Australian airport after burning off fuel

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A light plane with three people aboard landed safely without landing gear Monday after circling an Australian airport for almost three hours to burn off fuel.

The pilot, Peter Schott, and his passengers, a 60-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman, walked unaided from the twin-turboprop Beechcraft Super King Air after landing at Newcastle Airport north of Sydney, police Superintendent Wayne Humphrey said.

Schott "made a textbook wheels-up landing, which I was very happy to see,” Humphrey told reporters at the airport.

Paramedics checked all three at the airport and none needed to be taken to a hospital, Humphrey said.

Schott, 53, said he has been flying since he was 15 and had no doubt he would land safely despite the seized landing gear.

“Everything was thrown at us: bad weather, the showers came through, there were about 20 pelicans downwind -– you know, bird hazards,” a smiling Schott told Nine News television at the airport.

“I never had any doubt in the outcome of the flight,” he said.

Passenger Michael Reynolds praised the pilot's performance.

“Pete the pilot, he did a wonderful job. He was awesome, 100% calm all the time," Reynolds told Nine.

The plane had just taken off from Newcastle for a 180-kilometer (112-mile) flight north to Port Macquarie when the pilot raised the alarm about “issues with the landing gear,” Humphrey said.

The plane landed on the tarmac around three hours later at 12:20 p.m. without incident, video showed.

Fire engines and ambulances were among emergency services standing by.

The plane is owned by Port Macquarie-based Eastern Air Services, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Aviation safety expert Ron Bartsch said the pilot would have decided to return to Newcastle because the airport has better emergency response resources than are available at Port Macquarie.

“The pilot has done quite a copy book landing and got everybody on the ground safely, and that’s the most important outcome,” Bartsch said. “The situation could’ve been a lot worse.”

“They have to shut off the fuel, shut off the electrics to reduce the chance of a fire upon doing a belly-up landing. But obviously the pilot has done this textbook-style,” Bartsch said.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will investigate the incident.

The runway will remain closed for 24 hours while its condition is assessed, but damage to the tarmac appears to be “superficial,” Humphrey said.