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Pilot recounts landing A-10 without landing gear, canopy after gun malfunction

Capt. Brett DeVries, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot of the 107th Fighter Squadron from Selfridge Air National Guard Base, poses next to the aircraft he safely landed after a malfunction forced him to make an emergency landing July 20, 2017 at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.

U.S. AIR NATIONAL GUARD

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 16, 2017

Without the benefit of landing gear or a canopy, an Air National Guard pilot brought his A-10 Thunderbolt II in for a belly landing in Michigan last month.

“It is believed to be the first time in the roughly 40-year history of the A-10 that a pilot had to land with no canopy and with the landing gear up,” according to an Air National Guard press release.

Capt. Brett DeVries landed the A-10 on the runway at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center on July 20. While the attack jet sustained heavy damage, no one was injured, the release said.

“To this day, I really haven’t second guessed anything,” DeVries said, according to the release. “In that moment, your training kicks in. The training — that’s what saves you and your wingman.”

DeVries and four other A-10 pilots assigned to the 107th Fighter Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., were practicing bombing and strafing runs at Grayling Air Gunnery Range when the trouble began, the release said.

On DeVries’ second pass, his gun malfunctioned and the canopy blew off his aircraft. The wind then caught in his helmet and slammed his head against his seat.

“It was like someone sucker punched me,” he said. “I was just dazed for a moment.”

The A-10 was then flying at about 150 feet, so DeVries climbed to 2,000 feet and lowered his seat to avoid the wind.

Maj. Shannon Vickers was flying behind DeVries and saw the sudden climb. He flew beneath DeVries’ aircraft and noticed that several covers were blown from the jet when the gun malfunctioned. The two “Red Devils” decided to fly to Alpena to land.

When it was time to attempt a landing, Vickers again flew beneath DeVries’ aircraft to check the landing gear and saw that the nose gear was hung up because of the damaged gun. The pilots determined it was best to land without using the gear.

Vickers then guided DeVries in for the landing.

“I flew him down, calling out his altitude,” said Vickers, according to the release. “He came in flat, I mean it was a very smooth landing.”

The Air Force is investigating the cause of the original malfunction. “The A-10 is still at Alpena where it is being repaired and will return to the flying inventory at Selfridge,” the release said.

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Capt. Brett DeVries (right) and his wingman Maj. Shannon Vickers, both A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots of the 107th Fighter Squadron from Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich. Vickers helped DeVries safely make an emergency landing July 20, 2017.
TERRY ATWELL/U.S. AIR NATIONAL GUARD