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Orange County sheriff's helicopter helps plane make emergency landing

Video shows plane's emergency landing at Orlando Executive Airport

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange County Sheriff's Office helicopter helped the pilot of a small plane make an emergency landing at the Orlando Executive Airport over this past weekend.

Robert Pender gets choked up remembering his emergency landing Saturday.

The OCSO Chase helicopter and air traffic controllers worked with the pilot for over an hour to help him make a safe landing.

"These guys are such professionals doing that," Pender said. "It's just amazing that they're out there to do it."

He told News 6 he knew something was wrong during a routine fly when a light in his cockpit didn't go off. That's when he noticed the landing gear in his small plane was stuck and the right wheel would not come down.

"Do you require any assistance?" air control asked.

"Yeah, my right gear is down," Pender responded. "If you watch, the control surfaces are bouncing up and down, the wings are going back and forth, the airplane is rocking." 

Deputies said the OCSO helicopter flew alongside the pilot to investigate the problem.

"I knew my airplane was like a tank, that it wasn't going to come apart on me," Pender said.

Master Deputy Jason Sams said he zoomed in on the plane through his camera lens and could see Pender was keeping his cool.

"I kept the camera locked on him the whole time, just in case something happened I could warn him," Sams said.

Pender let him know he was going to start trying different maneuvers in the air to shake the wheel out, but those didn't work.

"The way he operated the aircraft, he was a very experienced pilot who knew his aircraft," Sams said.

While Pender said he wasn't scared, he knew his family would be worried and sent his wife a message.

"She was shopping at Joann's when I sent her a text saying, 'I love you, I'm making an emergency landing," Pender said.

He managed to land the plane with only two wheels, causing his plane to spin around in the grass.

"We assured him that we weren't going to leave his side, that when he landed we were going to get out and shake his hand," Sams said.

Pender said help was there when he needed them the most.

"I owe you guys one big one, I really do," Pender said. Pender walked off the plane moments after the landing and said the plane barely had any damage.

"While we live out of state and cannot thank them personally, we wanted to make sure that their concern and compassion did not go unnoticed. My father had nothing but praise for the officers that helped him," the pilot's daughter wrote to the OCSO. "Please know how much your kindness meant to our family. Thank you for going to my fathers aid and assisting with a safe landing and God bless each of you and keep you safe."