Rocky Moran Jr. survives small plane crash

January 22, 2002 - BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Sigma Autosport's Toyota-Atlantic driver Rocky Moran Jr. escaped injury when the Cessna 172RG airplane he was flying experienced a malfunction of the right landing gear during a routine flight Friday...

January 22, 2002 - BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Sigma Autosport's Toyota-Atlantic driver Rocky Moran Jr. escaped injury when the Cessna 172RG airplane he was flying experienced a malfunction of the right landing gear during a routine flight Friday afternoon (Jan. 11).

"This turned out to be anything but routine," said Moran, 22, of Cota de Caza, Calif., who holds a private pilots' license. "What we thought would be an hour trip, turned into a life threatening experience."

Moran and two passengers, Scott Fullmer of San Clemente, Calif., and Brian Hatch of Mission Viejo, Calif., decided to fly to nearby Murrieta for some lunch and a chance to get in some airtime. The group left John Wayne/Orange County Airport in Costa Mesa, Calif., at 4:30 p.m. and flew 30 minutes to Murrieta with no problems. It was the trip back that had all the adventure.

"I was coming in for my approach at John Wayne, when I operated the landing gear. I couldn't see the light to indicate they had come down so I checked on my (left) side of the airplane and could see that the left side was down. I asked Scott to check out his side and when he said the landing gear didn't come down, I knew there was a problem."

Moran tried using the manual pump to operate the landing gear, but after several hundred pumps by Moran and both passengers, it was still stuck. Moran then contacted the airport and FAA authorities.

Moran was instructed to keep trying to operate the manual pump, and to circle the airport until his fuel was low. The 30-minute return trip ended up taking three-and-a-half hours.

During that time, Moran and his passengers tried everything possible to get the landing gear down, including trying to pry the gear down by making several flying maneuvers, but unfortunately nothing worked. Moran had to land the plane on two sets of wheels instead of three.

When the plane landed at approximately 8 p.m., it skidded more than 2,700 feet before coming to a stop at the end of the runway. Emergency vehicles were on hand in case of any injuries. Remarkably, there were no injuries and minimal damage to the Cessna.

"When we landed, we got out of the airplane and jumped around and hugged each other," said Moran. "There were plenty of reporters, paramedics and officials on hand, which was a wonderful sight after the long ordeal."

Having survived two accidents in less than two months has Moran counting his blessings. Moran injured his back a month ago when he fell off the back of a motorcycle. The back injury, although not serious, prevented him from taking part in the first test of the season for Sigma Autosport's Toyota-Atlantic team.

"I've survived falling off a motorcycle and now this," said Moran. "I guess I'm very lucky, but I credit my racing experience with helping me through this. I was calm as were my passengers.

"Thankfully, we were all okay."

FAA investigators are still looking into the cause of the malfunction.

-sa-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Rocky Moran Jr.