Release #08.041H
August 14, 2008

American Eagle First Officer John De Paola Receives ALPA’s Superior Airmanship Award
Freehold, N.J., pilot recognized for superior airmanship skills exhibited during recovery from no-wheels touchdown

WASHINGTON—The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), will recognize American Eagle Airlines First Officer John De Paula with the ALPA Superior Airmanship Award for his outstanding performance in dealing with the landing gear failure on EGL Flight 4539, an Embraer ERJ 135 regional jet providing service from Toronto Pearson International Airport to Boston Logan International Airport on June 20, 2007.

“The actions of the pilots of American Eagle Flight 4539 underscore the importance of having a trained, experienced flight crew in your cockpit, ready to act decisively at a moment’s notice,” said ALPA President, Capt. John Prater.

The flight was routine until the pilots made their final approach. After they selected the landing gear down, they heard the customary rumble of the gear doors opening and observed the normal indication of three green landing gear lights in the cockpit. But as they flew through the landing flare, their experience told them they were too low to the ground.

F/O De Paola gently rocked the wings to try to get ground contact with at least one main wheel. At this instant, the pilots realized the landing gear was in fact not down, and they immediately started a go-around. Air traffic control then informed the flight crew that sparks had been observed streaming behind the airplane during the rejected landing and that debris was on the runway.

The captain immediately declared an emergency, and the pilots started troubleshooting the landing gear problem. After completing the checklist and hearing the rumble of the gear doors opening again, the pilots asked to fly by the control tower so that the controllers and ground personnel could visually examine the landing gear position.

Being advised that all three landing gear appeared normal from the fly-by inspection, the pilots decided to burn off excess fuel, just in case the landing gear was not securely locked in place. Meanwhile, the pilots preformed the entire emergency landing checklist, including giving a thorough briefing to the flight attendant. This also gave her the time she needed to ready the cabin and the passengers for a possible collapsed-gear landing and cabin evacuation.

Well prepared for whatever situation they might have been facing, the pilots fortunately landed the airplane safely that sunny day, avoiding any injury or further damage. Later, the American Eagle maintenance department inspected the landing gear control unit and found that an electrical short circuit caused the unusual chain of events.

“The quick actions of First Officer De Paola and Capt. Joslyn prevented what could have been a serious situation,” said American Eagle Master Executive Council Chairman Herb Mark. “The extraordinary efforts and skill of this flight crew bring great credit to themselves, American Eagle Airlines, and the Air Line Pilots Association.”

“American Eagle Airlines, as well as myself personally, wants to thank First Office De Paola for his handling of this situation, ensuring the safety of our passengers and crewmembers. The outcome shows the professionalism and experience of our pilot group. I would also like to thank ALPA for recognizing these fine aviators,” said Capt. Jim Winkley, American Eagle Airlines vice president of flight operations.

This award will be presented today at ALPA’s 54th Annual Air Safety & Security Week and Awards Banquet in Washington, D.C. ALPA will also honor De Paola’s colleague, Capt. Richard Joslyn, with a Superior Airmanship Award for his critically important role in ensuring the successful outcome of this harrowing event.

Founded in 1931, ALPA represents 55,000 pilots at 40 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit for more information.

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CONTACT: Pete Janhunen, Linda Shotwell, Molly Martin, (703) 481-4440