Governor Keating Left Shaken after Plane Trip

Friday, July 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- An airplane carrying Gov. Frank Keating and six others made a safe landing Friday night at Wiley Post Airport after worries that it had a flat tire. "The almighty took care of us," Keating said. "We had two professionals up front."

Keating said the twin engine King Air 350 shook at about 900 feet after taking off from Washington, D.C. "It started to shudder violently and I said, `Oh my God."'

Pilot Bill Hartsell, who was a pilot for former President Bush when he was vice president, decided after checking the instruments that the plane had a landing gear problem and that it was safer to complete the trip to Oklahoma City.

Press spokesman Dan Mahoney, who was on the plane, said one reason for flying on was that they would have less fuel when landing. He said everyone was "pretty loose" before the landing. "We knew the fire trucks were there and we knew we didn't have a lot of fuel left. That was the big thing we worried about, was fire."

Before they reached Oklahoma City, Keating said they broke out some submarine sandwiches and a bottle of champagne. The pilot cut the engines and slowly eased the plane down to the front running gear about 7:20 p.m. As the plane passed, some of the nearly half dozen fire trucks waiting by the runway followed it.

About 25 people eating in the airport restaurant went outside to watch the landing. John Clabes, a spokesman for the FAA, said they thought the plane had a flat tire. It made a pass over the tower before it landed safely. Lt. Stewart Meyer of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said gauges indicated a problem on the plane.

Department of Public Safety officials said it appeared the plane might have had a loose bearing.

The plane was towed toward the terminal after the landing. Clabes said such problems were not unusual. John Youell, a flight instructor who was at the airport, said that 99 percent of the time after a couple of flyovers, the pilot is able to land.

Keating said that just before the landing, he called and talked to family members, assuring them everything would be OK. "It's just great that we were successful and safe," he said.

Keating said he didn't know what his weekend plan would be, but "whatever it is, it's going to be with my kids."

Keating and his contingent that included two aides were returning from a trip to Washington, D.C., where the governor spoke at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday.

Keating has been mentioned as a possible running mate for Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush. Several national television crews were expected to stake out the mansion over the weekend as an expected announcement by Bush on his running mate neared. "I'm going to provide all the news media Cokes and water," Keating said. "I want to provide them with some Oklahoma hospitality, even though they're going to have a long wait. I don't see anything happening."