Monday, May 27, 2024

Two very narrow escapes by/from light aircraft


I think several people have every reason to celebrate this weekend.  First off, in Australia, a light aircraft carrying a family experienced engine failure, and made a skin-of-their-teeth landing at a local airport - missing trees and rooftops by literally inches.  (A tip o' the hat to Australian reader Andrew for sending me the link to this video report.)

The pilot appears to be a former South African, like myself - his name and accent are unmistakeable.  Kudos to him for a remarkable (and very fortunate) piece of piloting.

Next, closer to home, a skydiving flight narrowly avoided tragedy.

A pilot and six passengers on a skydiving flight jumped from a small plane just before the aircraft crashed in a Missouri field on Saturday, according to federal authorities.

The single-engine Cessna U206C crashed at about 1 p.m. near the Butler Memorial Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) told Fox News Digital in a statement. 

The agency said preliminary information indicates the plane was flying a “skydiving mission,” and that the pilot and all passengers escaped the plane before the crash.

. . .

Paramedics treated the pilot and passengers at the scene before they were all released, the sheriff’s office said.

First responders found the aircraft wreckage in a hayfield east of the airport’s runways, according to the sheriff’s office, which described the plane as a “total loss.”

There's more at the link.

This accident surprised me because the pilot was wearing a parachute.  Skydiving pilots often don't wear one, partly due to space considerations (they typically cram as many skydivers as possible into the aircraft, leaving minimal room for the pilot) and partly because it usually takes time to get all the skydivers out of the plane, so that in an emergency, the pilot might not have time to get out himself.  (To illustrate, a recent Swiss skydiving aircraft accident killed the pilot.)  Congratulations to all concerned on their survival, and to the pilot on being more than usually safety-conscious.

I've flown many thousands of miles in single-engine light aircraft, bopping around the African continent;  and my wife learned to fly in Alaska, and knows what it's like to land on sandbars, moraines, tundra and other "interesting" surfaces.  We both have a lively appreciation for the dangers and difficulties involved in using small aircraft.  In both these cases, we're very glad that nobody was harmed.



Mauser said...

The related videos at the end showed another gear-up emergency landing at the same airport.

Very well done.

boron said...

"This accident surprised me because the pilot was wearing a parachute."
Hmm? Might be the first time I've heard of a Light-plane pilot wearing a parachute.
Don't mind me if I look at this one with a jaudiced eye.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Circa 1970 a friend had a small business hauling skydivers. A slip/fall put him in a cast for a few weeks. He asked me to take over on weekends. No problem, happy to so. He was adamant about having a spare ignition key. Seems some skydivers thought it was a fine joke for the last one out to turn the ignition of and take the key.

It happened. With 5,000 ft of altitude gliding to a landing wasn't the problem. Shock cooling the engine after a long maximum power climb was.

Making low passes over the miscreant's chute after he deployed it, causing a partial collapse, was juvenile but a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

I went on a tandem sky dive in Nebraska and the pilot was wearing a parachute, I thought this this was the norm.

Will said...

One of the problems with a group of skydivers is they want to gather on the exterior of the aircraft until they are all present so they can fall as a group, holding hands/etc.

The problems are this can radically affect the weight and balance, along with airflow to critical surfaces. This is the usual reason that a jump plane crashes. The pilot loses control, and either has insufficient height to regain it, or the plane suffers structural damage in the process. The pilot seldom survives, either lacking time to exit, or the gyrations keep him pinned inside. Not uncommon to take a few jumpers with him if the control failure happens before all have moved outside.

Will said...

The Aussie incident is a typical desperate attempt to reach a runway. Look like his engine was making partial power, as he stretched his approach quite far, and all prop tips are bent from hitting the ground . The pilot was very lucky, or very skilled, as he came quite close to trees and rooftops.

Unfortunately, this sort of situation seldom ends well for the average GA pilot, as the normal result is a fatal stall/spin when the pilot allows the speed to fall below the minimum needed to maintain control. Small planes like that do not need a runway in an emergency, just a reasonably flat smooth area to touch down on. When the engine quits, the insurance company owns the aircraft. Killing everyone on board while trying to keep the paint pristine is a foolish endeavor, but quite common.

Old NFO said...

Much luck used up by all parties on those two!

Anonymous said...

Meh. My father escaped 3 B17 bombers which are littered all over Australia & the great barrier reef. Did a little dingy time at sea as well. What's the fastest way for a bomber pilot to empty his crew from a belly landed bird? Yell fire!

Bob Gibson said...

Re: Well Seasoned Fool - Skydiver suffers multiple abrasions, contusions, fractures, and lacerations. Oh, he landed fine, the pilot beat the c**p out of him after he landed . . .