Pilot Makes Unscheduled Landing On Tulsa Raceway

Monday, October 30th 2006, 9:07 pm
By: News On 6

Tulsa race fans were stunned over the weekend when, between races, an airplane came in for a landing on the racetrack.

With the Tulsa Raceway Park's drag strip just about a mile from the airport, we wondered if this was a common problem.

News on 6 anchor Tami Marler says it's kind of funny, but it wouldn't have taken much to have had a real tragedy for race fans, and a clearly confused pilot.

Deanna Hudson had a birds-eye view of 79 year-old George Dostal's airplane as it made its approach to the Tulsa Raceway Park.

"We had noticed that a lot of the planes because of some work that they were coming over this way and they were low, but it was like, 'he is landing!'" said Hudson.

The bleachers were full of fans that were shocked to see the Piper aircraft bearing down on the racetrack.

Just about a mile away is Tulsa International's east-west runway. Airport officials say they can understand how some pilots might be confused.

"I suppose you could mistake it for a runway because of its proximity and from the air, drag strips do look like runways," said Jeff Mulder of the Tulsa International Airport. "I imagine because we've been using that east-west runway a lot, a lot of planes are flying in that direction and that's probably contributing to some of that."

Hudson says it certainly seemed confusing to Dostal, who later told her about his landing on the racetrack. "He said the lady in the tower was saying 'you're too low you're too low.' And he said, 'No, I can see it. The runway.' And she said, 'No you're too low, you need to pull up.' And he said, 'No I'm on the ground.’”

Jeff Mulder says Tulsa International Airport has completed phase one of its runway overhaul ahead of schedule, so air traffic is returning to normal.

For race fans on Saturday, there was nothing normal about meeting George Dostal as he passed through Tulsa. The retired military pilot who fought in the war ready to fly off into the wild blue yonder, with a whole audience of new fans.

"We all just started waving. Bye George! Have a safe trip!"

Tulsa Raceway Park continued its races while George Dostal waited for FAA clearance to take-off.

He was headed to St. Louis from New Mexico to visit a sick brother.

Deanna Hudson says race officials looked back in their records and found this had happened once before, a small aircraft landed on the drag strip in 1973.

[photo courtesy-Ginger Martin]