A piece of history skidded to a standstill on the Richfield Regional Airport’s runway Nov. 14.
An FJ-4 Fury — the last flight worthy example of the fighter jet — made a belly landing at the airport at approximately 4:30 p.m. The FJ-4 saw service in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps from 1954 through the late 1960s.
“It was simple pilot error,” said Richfield City Police Chief Trent Lloyd. He said the pilot, Richard Sugden, reported that he thought he had extended the landing gears of the aircraft. However, the wheels were still inside the belly of the jet when the landing occurred, resulting in the Fury skidding down the runway.
“He did a great job, it went right down the center of the runway,” Lloyd said.
While the jet was damaged, it probably won’t be out of the air long.
“It really didn’t cause a lot of damage,” Lloyd said. He said two of the flaps sparked and smoked from the landing, and portions of the bottom of the plane might have to be re-skinned, but that structurally it appeared to have survived the crash well.
“It’s the second time that same plane has landed like that,” Lloyd said.
There were no injuries as a result of the rough landing.
The Fury was flying along side a Mig 15 at the time of the crash landing. The two planes could have been adversaries at one point as the Migs were a Russian plane design utilized by China, Poland and other countries.
The planes, owned by Mig Fury Fighters out of Idaho, were headed to an airshow at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada, and had planned to fuel up in Richfield.
It took crews between four and five hours to clear the plane off the runway.
“We had a lot of people show up to help,” Lloyd said. He said the pilot directed the effort, using a forklift, jacks and stands; the plane was hoisted off the ground so the landing gears could be extended.
“They have huge shocks on them,” Lloyd said. The plane had to be lifted more than six feet off the ground.
Once it was on its own wheels, the plane was wheeled into a hanger.
“They wanted to be very careful to not harm the plane,” Lloyd said. “It’s a piece of equipment that is irreplaceable, and priceless.”
The plane is being housed at the airport until it can be transported back to its home hanger for repairs.
“They’re going to pull the wings and tail off and transport it by truck,” said Adam Robinson, airport manager. He said since no injuries were reported, there was no need to have the crash landing investigated.
“It is absolutely cool to see planes like that land here,” Robinson said.