Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Talk about a near-death experience!

I'm amazed no-one was killed or even seriously injured in this runway collision.  Pilot Thom Richard tells the story on Facebook.

On September 18, 2016, during the Gold final start we experienced an accident involving our F1 racer, ‘Hot Stuff’ and a fellow competitor’s airplane.

We were number four on the starting grid, which was the middle inside position with three aircraft on the front row, one to our right and three behind. Upon running the engine up in anticipation of the start, about 20 seconds before the green flag drop, the engine was not running well enough for flight, as you can hear from the audio, never mind racing. I made the decision to shut the engine down to signal the starters to halt the starting process. The flagman on my row put his hands in an ‘X’ over his head, as our procedures prescribe, and I opened my canopy to make it clear I was out of the race and so everyone could see me. The alternate airplane was signaled to taxi on to the runway to replace my entry. I felt confident the communications had reached the appropriate people and waited for personnel to push me off the runway.

However, much to my surprise, I saw the flagman run out on to the runway waving his hands over his head as if something was wrong. The aircraft to my right started rolling and a few seconds later the number six and eight aircraft flew by me on either side. All I could do at that point was hope the number seven (center) aircraft would clear me on the centerline to my right.

The impact was violent and loud. His left leading edge shaved off the top several inches from my vertical and skimmed the turtle-deck without touching until it impacted my right hand holding up the canopy, at well over sixty miles an hour. The left landing gear hit the top of the gull-wing center-section, blowing a hole in the top skin and impacted the rear face of the front spar so hard that it broke the landing gear clean off his airplane. The propeller sliced three evenly spaced gashes about mid span of my right wing, about a foot apart. The right landing gear sheared the wing off just short of the right wingtip. The impact spun me around nearly 180º, like a teacup ride at warp eight. The other aircraft came to rest several hundred feet in front of me with a folded gear, damaged wing and sheared propeller facing the other way as well. That pilot received no injuries.

There's more at the link.  Here's cockpit video of the collision. Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

How he got out of that so lightly, I just don't know . . . and the pilot of the other plane is apparently also OK.  If they were cats, I'd say each just lost one of their nine lives!



SiGraybeard said...

I don't think I've ever seen so much luck concentrated in one place. I would think he'd lose that hand but apparently only has a broken bone (a few).

Old NFO said...

Agree with Sig... THAT was the definition of lucky!

camperbot said...

How did the wing not take his head off? Boatloads of luck all round.

Will said...

It would appear that the angle of attack of the striking aircraft (still on all three gear at impact) caused the left wing to climb as it cut through the vertical tail, thus clearing the turtleback and pilot's head.

I'll bet that the canopy has a lifting handle for his next flight/race, to keep that hand inside the cockpit. Might be a good thing to mandate for all those F1 racers. Helps to have both hands functional if you need to exit the aircraft in a hurry!

I wonder if a flag or streamer, released at the same time as the canopy is opened, would make the aircraft more visible to following aircraft? For bailout considerations, this would have to be remote from the cockpit, adding some complexity to the design. This system should be connected/armed by the groundcrew after closing the canopy on the starting line. A fairly light cable setup would be adequate to operate the remote release unit.

Larry said...

A flare or colored smoke grenade would be even better.