Wednesday, July 30, 2014

So We Can All Learn From Our Mistakes........

It seems that all the FAA writes about now are the mishaps pilots make on taxiing, landing and even taking-off. My last few articles have dealt with these adnauseam, so I won’t get into it again now except for one that stands out.This deals with a plane that made a forced landing on Venice Beach.Two people walking on the beach were struck by a plane that had a power failure. It was a tragic situation for sure. The Piper Cherokee was losing power and therefore unable to reach a nearby airport or just stay aloft. The question in my mind: could the pilot have crash landed safely on the beach edge without hitting two innocent people? Without actually being there, or better yet be in the cockpit, that is a very difficult call. Factors such as the planes altitude, attitude, distance from the landing site, view from the cockpit, type plane and lastly pilots experience level, all have to be considered. I will leave it there and be grateful it never happened to me.

I guess it’s time to ‘fess up. As a young pilot flying out of Syracuse (SYR) in a Cessna 172 I had an encounter with a tree at the end of the runway. This was at a very small strip south of SYR, with something like an 1800 foot runway. There were trees at both ends of the runway, so pilot beware! I was on a rather high final, higher than I should have been due to the trees. Also I bet I was faster than 1.3 Vso (too fast). I remember being just past the trees and a bit high and fast (in retrospect). Yup, you guessed it. I tried to force the plane down to land. As I held the nose down (pushing the control wheel as hard as I could) and standing on the brakes, it just kept on rolling. Until meeting up with a small tree just off the runway threshold. It wasn’t too noisy but I did get banged up a bit. Nothing too serious though. There was lots of damage to the prop, some to the structure and engine. Thank goodness for insurance!

There were a few people around and some confusion. I sat by the side of the wreck and wondered what was going to happen next. Pretty soon an older gray haired gentleman appeared and showed me his FAA badge. We chatted for a while, reviewing what had occurred. He was very understanding and pleasant, which was quite a relief for me. He went over some technical things about landings and flying in general. His rather gentle manner was most welcome as you can imagine. As he left, he told me to keep on flying and put the accident behind me. Very good advice which I followed, and never had another accident after that.

So we can all learn from our mistakes, and hopefully not repeat them.