Back in September, seventeen-year-old student pilot Maggie Taraska was attempting her first solo flight across the country. Heading for Portland, Maine, Taraska began her flight in Beverly, Massachusettes at the local Beverly Regional Airport. Taraska’s mother, Christine Taraska, was watching from the ground as the right main wheel of her daughter’s single-engine Piper PA28 broke off shortly after she took off.
According to The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the aircraft lost its wheel after 5 p.m. Sunday evening. Fortunately, a pilot on the ground spotted the break and contacted the tower, which then contacted Taraska in the air, informing her of the issue. Air traffic control contacted Taraska’s instructor, John Singleton, who began to assist her via radio.
“I had done emergency procedures before, but you don’t do them if you lose a wheel. No one really thinks that it’s going to happen to them. And I mean, I was all by myself so I was just terrified,” Taraska told ABC News.
Christine, an Air Force veteran, shared in her daughter’s terror from the ground, knowing it was a dangerous situation.
Taraska had been flying for three years prior to her first solo attempt and had practiced emergency landings as a student. While Taraska was undeniably stressed, Singleton commended her ability to pull herself together and work toward an emergency landing.
“You could hear the stress in her voice but as she understood what was going on, she calmed down, she worked through it,” Singleton said.
The airport was shut down to assist her landing and eliminate distractions. Local fire and police departments arrived to offer additional support at the airport.
With the help of Singleton, Taraska was able to land the plane around 5:50 p.m. While plane suffered significant damage after landing and skidding into the grass beside the runway, Taraska, fortunately, did not suffer any injuries from the incident.
“You have to have confidence in your ability if you’re going to be a pilot so I knew that I had practiced emergency procedures plenty of times and I knew that if I tried my best and I kept a cool head, there would be the best outcome possible,” Taraska shared.
Taraska hopes to use her experience to assist her in her pursuit of joining the U.S. Air Force Academy—just like both of her parents. She continues to accredit Singleton for helping her make the landing.
“I couldn’t have done it alone,” she said.
Currently, the FAA is looking into the incident.