After Scare, Nike Jet Lands

A Gulfstream V corporate jet carrying Nike employees flies over Hillsboro airport as it burns off fuel in Hillsboro, Ore., Monday, Nov. 21, 2005. The plane developed landing gear problems shortly after leaving suburban Hillsboro airport on Monday and it may be forced to make an emergency landing, officials said.
Five hours after a wild ride began for a group of four Nike officials, they are safely on the ground.

The Nike Inc. corporate jet carrying seven people — three of whom were crew members — developed landing gear problems shortly after takeoff Monday but then made a safe emergency landing.

The Gulfstream jet touched down at 12:11 p.m. at Hillsboro airport, the same airport where it had taken off bound for Toronto around five hours earlier.

The right main landing gear on the jet had become stuck shortly after takeoff but was successfully unstuck and extended after the crew consulted with Gulfsteam.

Neither Nike co-founder Phil Knight nor any sports stars were on board, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said.

Vada Manager, a Nike spokesman, said those on board the Gulfstream V were three senior executives, a fourth Nike employee and three crew members. Nike is the world's largest athletic shoe and clothing company.

In a press release, Nike confirmed that the four executives on the plane included: William D. Perez, Nike President and CEO; Charlie Denson, Co-President of the Nike Brand; Mary Kate Buckley, VP and GM of the Nike Americas Region; and Assistant to the CEO, Merritt Richardson.

"In addition, three flight crew were on the jet including Nike (employee) pilot Dave Newton; and co-pilot Blair Gamman and flight attendant Melody Peters, both contractors," Nike's press release read.

The right main landing gear on the chartered jet became stuck shortly after the plane took off from Hillsboro airport, bound for Toronto.

Allen Kenitzer, an FAA spokesman, said earlier that the plane crew took steps to burn off fuel and was talking with the Gulfstream company to get advice on freeing the landing gear.

"The pilot is the ultimate authority in determining what to do with that airplane," Kenitzer said.

TV footage showed the right main wheel only about one-quarter extended, apparently blocked by the wheel door. The gear was back to normal when the plane finally landed.

As it burned off fuel, the airplane made low passes over the Hillsboro runway, briefly touching the runway with the extended left landing gear and then lifting off again, apparently to jostle the other wheel down, said Connie King, spokeswoman for the Hillsboro Fire Department.

John O'Meara, a chief test pilot at Gulfstream who helped out from the ground, told MSNBC there was initially some difficulty keeping phone contact with the crew.

After that was solved, he said, "in following all the procedures that are already in the flight manual, we were able to talk them through that and ... they were able to get the gear down." The crew, he said, remained calm and "did a magnificent job."

Perez, 58, was named last Nov. 18 to succeed Knight as CEO. He had spent 34 years with S.C. Johnson & Son Inc., the privately held manufacturer of household products.