Saw an almost successful off-airport landing today

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by denverpilot, Nov 20, 2017.

  1. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    I’ll hold off on any details of aircraft or pilot’s name and photos until when/if I have his permission to post those.

    I had the day off today to do some personal stuff and take a friend’s kid to the shooting range which I had been promising for months.

    On my way into town from our rural home in Elbert County CO I was watching a beautiful airplane doing maneuvers over the east/west main county road we use to get to town. Looked like lazy eights. Beautiful day to fly, light winds and 60s.

    I notice that the airplane rolls out of the lazy 8 early and is headed my direction so I’m watching him come closer but I also notice I’m seeing it descend fairly rapidly. At first I thought “Instructor pulled the engine and the student is lining up on the County road...” as it passed over my Yukon I could tell through the moon roof that he was lower than I expected for a simulated engine out. I look in the rear view and see he’s still descending.

    “Oh ****. He’s landing on the road. That’s real.”

    I flip a U-turn and head back that direction and see the aircraft touch down on the road perfectly and veer to the right. What I didn’t see was the oncoming Jeep in the left lane the pilot was avoiding.

    Then a QUICK whip to the right and the airplane goes through the drainage ditch, over/through a barbed wire fence and skids out to the left in a field next to the road. Airplane parts are shed all over the road. Crap!

    I race down the hill and stop the Yukon just prior to the first wreckage in the road while dialing 911. No service on the phone.

    I park with hazards on and I can see the Jeep stopped up ahead and the driver is already talking to the pilot who’s still in the aircraft. That’s a good sign. I run from the Yukon to the aircraft and have to clamber over the mangled barb wire. I holler to the pilot if he’s okay and I’m looking for fuel leaking or fire since he’s still in the cockpit. None yet.

    I walk up behind the left wing and quiz him. You okay, what’s your name, did you hit your head or the panel? I’m a pilot too. You almost had that. You’re fine. Anything hurting?

    He says his name is X and than I realize who he is. I’ve known this guy for over 20 years. “X? X lastname? It’s Nate, X.” He recognizes me and laughs. “I didn’t recognize you...”

    I walk around the airplane. Right wing is gone. That’s what’s laying in the road. I tell him he does have a small fuel leak from what’s left of the right wing and to keep an eye out for fire. “Can you get out if you need to?” “Yeah”. I tell the kid from the other car I’m an instructor at this guy’s airport and I know him and he seems okay but to watch him for any signs of blackout or medical distress and I’m going to go back and clear the road of debris and take a couple photos before I move anything.

    I run back, shoot enough photos to show where all the parts stopped moving and the tire tracks through the ditch, and come back. X is still fine and isn’t as shocked. We chat waiting for EMS.

    The volunteer firefighters from the station in my neighborhood started to show up. One recognizes me from a neighborhood party a friend throws every year.

    Written witness statement for the Sheriff. FAA was on the way but looked to be a number of hours out. I talked a little more to X and had to go since I had people waiting on me in town.

    Friend is fine. EMS wanted to check him out but he basically refused. They still had him sit in the back of the bus and assessed him briefly just in case.

    Noted: Airplane parts are lighter than you think they will Be when dragging them off a county road.

    He had left his cell back at the airport in his car. When I joked, “Do you want to call your wife?” He bellowed, “Oh HELL NO!” Hahahahaha. I guess he wanted to have that conversation in person. LOL.

    That was my morning. Wasn’t expecting that today!
     
  2. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot Pattern Altitude

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    Glad your friend is ok. No injuries and let the insurance have the plane. That’s a good outcome.
     
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  3. Stingray Don

    Stingray Don Pattern Altitude

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    Wow, glad the pilot was okay. Could have turned out much worse.
     
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  4. GeorgeC

    GeorgeC Pattern Altitude

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    Fuel leak and it wasn't the Yukon. Good news story!
     
  5. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Whew, almost a successful outcome poor guy. Glad he's ok. Great that you were there too Nate, well done.
     
  6. eman1200

    eman1200 Final Approach

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    Sounded pretty successful to me
     
  7. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Yeah I just wish the airplane was in one piece. It’s a gorgeous classic and probably totaled. Gear was mangled by the off-roading and a wing is gone. It’ll probably never fly again.

    He was sooooo close to not having any damage. I was heartbroken for him. By the time I left he was joking and in good spirits but using past-tense words about being an airplane owner. :-(
     
  8. SoCal RV Flyer

    SoCal RV Flyer Pattern Altitude

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    That had to be a little surreal. We always see these videos on the news, but to witness one in person and come to the aid of the pilot... Well done!
     
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  9. eman1200

    eman1200 Final Approach

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    I actually meant that I successfully read an entire post of yours. ;) That’s what I meant by successful.
     
  10. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Well yes it was, but I meant w/o bending the plane.
     
  11. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Completely. When I realized he was way too low for it to be practice as he went over the truck, I went into first-responder mode. I was half expecting to see blood and be doing CPR for a long time out there. Would have been a real crapper to do that on a friend.
     
  12. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

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    So the Jeep saw an airplane coming at him and couldn't pull off the road? Glad the guy is ok.
     
  13. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Think he was just stunned.
     
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  14. Bobanna

    Bobanna Line Up and Wait

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    Nice job and nice write-up. Thanks. So, how was the shooting with the kids?
     
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  15. George Mohr

    George Mohr Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Wow, great outcome. What was the cause?
     
  16. rtk11

    rtk11 Line Up and Wait

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    Glad your friend is OK. Any ditching you can walk away from is a successful one. Bummer about the Jeep and having to avoid it and tearing up the plane. But his life is more important than the plane.
     
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  17. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    A good landing is any one you walk away from.... Glad he was OK.
     
  18. N659HB

    N659HB Pattern Altitude

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    Especially on a road.
     
  19. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Sorry, no kidding Paul, I was trying to type that response to you and the TV news guy rolled up that someone had put in touch with me to do an interview.

    NOT about the forced landing, they are running a story on laser Christmas lights and aircraft safety and one of the airport people asked me if I would meet up with them and be on camera. Ugh. I hate that but I’m on their “list” of willing pilots and instructors to talk to the press. Have done it a couple of times now.

    (I’ll find the link from the TV station and post it later. I was horribly distracted and it’s probably an awful interview. Probably as bad as the similar story I did for Chinese TV a few years ago. Ugh. There’s downsides to knowing press folks who call up and have friends who need to finish up stories. Ha.)

    Anyway. I think the poor guy in the Jeep just stopped and froze and wasn’t over far enough that the pilot wouldn’t clip the vehicle with a wing, but I can’t be sure. I was about 100 yards away. I was focused on the airplane. He probably moved over some but wings are longer than they look when the runway is a two lane county road.

    Pilot said he didn’t want to hit him on the rollout. Can’t blame him. I think if the road sign hadn’t spun him into the ditch he’d have ended up next to the Jeep or rolled out just past it. That aircraft lands at about 60 MPH or so, and the road is slightly downhill where he tried to set it down. I don’t think he had room to get it stopped before the Jeep. And Jeep guy was nice. He was first to the pilot, checking on him and trying to help him. His phone also worked and he got the first 911 call out. He apparently gave the first responders a bit of a bad county road number instead of using the road’s nickname so they responded close but not quite to the right place.

    I didn’t catch if the dispatcher called him back and got the road name right or how they got the correct location because that was the point I was at the cockpit checking on him and checking for fuel and fire. I do recall telling the kid to use the road nickname but I guess he didn’t. Something to think about if you’re ever at a forced landing or a worse crash scene. If the person on the phone is having trouble with the location and you know it, maybe just ask for the phone and make sure the dispatcher knows exactly where you are. I don’t think it slowed the response much in this case but it could have.

    I think an airplane coming at him in the road was the last thing he thought he would see today, just like I thought the same thing watching him trying to land on the road over the top of my Yukon. Poor kid was as shocked as the pilot was. He felt better that I said I was an instructor and I knew the pilot and he was speaking and responding like I would expect him to and no sign of injuring himself.

    Aircraft didn’t have a shoulder harness. If/when I can post photos you’ll know why. Never had them.

    I was really worried about a head strike to the panel or side of the canopy with as violently as the aircraft was twisted into the ditch and seeing wing parts go flying into the road. I kept asking him if his head hit anything or if his chest had hit the yoke. He was adamant that no, he hadn’t hit anything or bounced around like a ping pong ball.

    I asked him if I could take a photo of him afterward and promised I wasn’t going to post it anywhere just to send to him and my wife who also knows him. She couldn’t believe it when I called her to tell her I just saw X make a forced landing on the county road six miles from our house.

    Man. What a day.

    Shooting went well too! Ten year old son of an ex-coworker and my old boss as his escort and they had a great time at the range! Kid shoots pretty well! We had an assortment of .22 and other stuff. I dragged the Ruger Ranch Rifle chambered in 9mm out so he could try that too. He said it had a “kick”. We laughed and told him we will bring a bigger rifle next time. :)
     
  20. mjburian

    mjburian Cleared for Takeoff

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    Sounds like a pretty good outcome given the circumstances. Too bad about the plane, but really glad everyone walked away from it.

    Any idea what caused the forced landing?
     
  21. steingar

    steingar Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Mill quits and my insurance company has just bought the airplane. Only thing I care about is walking away with my manhood (and the rest of me) intact. Sounds like quite a successful outcome.

    How’d the pilot not see the Jeep on the descent?
     
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  22. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

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    Yep, you have to post that interview, lol. It's easy to arm chair quarterback, but I think I would have darted to the side of the road if I saw an airplane coming at me, but in the heat of the moment, maybe not. The pilot did the absolute correct thing avoiding impact with the car, the wing would have killed the driver. Sounds like a good ending to a sad story. Hope I never see something like that.
     
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  23. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Answering this...

    He saw the Jeep but was trying to go between me and the Jeep.

    If the Jeep had fully stopped another 100 yards back he might have made it. Or at least come to a stop next to the Jeep.

    Just wasn’t enough room and he had no power to go over the Jeep. If he had partial power he might have landed past the Jeep but that would have been iffy. Lose that power all the way and he would have probably hit the Jeep hard with the left wing.

    Like I said, wasn’t really the kid in the Jeep’s fault he didn’t though. He had no idea what he was seeing out the front window.

    Just bad timing. :-(
     
  24. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    I’m interested to see what my heart rate peak was today from the Garmin watch. LOL.
     
  25. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    I just realized a key piece of info is missing in the original story. Sorry. Have typed it a couple of times and when I re-read it I realized its missing.

    The whip to the right was he hit a road sign.

    Nothing identifiable in this photo so here’s the airplane parts embedded in the road sign.

    That’s what tossed him off the road.

    [​IMG]
     
  26. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    And where the airplane went off-roading...

    [​IMG]

    I know. Tease. I’ll see if he will let me post the rest of the photos.
     
  27. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Power loss. If I describe it in more detail it might give the aircraft type away so I’ll hold on that.

    He said he rolled out of the lazy eight and no response to the throttle, so he saw the road and turned directly to it. That would have been about a 90 degree turn.

    Pilot has a theory about it but they’ll know more when they tear into the cowling and test some stuff I suspect. I also don’t want to speak for what he saw and experienced.

    All I know is when he went over me at about 300’ AGL or so, I also didn’t hear any engine noise which I was fully expecting if it was a practice engine out.

    I honestly thought I was being buzzed at the end of an engine out practice approach by a student pilot and instructor indirectly, because the aircraft had turned directly into me and went over the truck. The lack of a throttle up was mt first clue something was wrong.

    I was kinda happy watching what I thought was flight training out there until I realized the aircraft had continued the descent.
     
  28. Dave Theisen

    Dave Theisen Pattern Altitude

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    Curious, was the road the best option?
     
  29. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

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    Carb ice?
     
  30. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Mmm. Tough call. We had snow a few days ago and the fields are always rough but right now they’d have been muddy and the aircraft probably would have sunk in. Don’t know if that would have flipped it.

    I can’t speak for the pilot but I probably would have gone for the road if no cars were on it, and he probably thought he had enough room between the two westbound cars landing eastbound. There’s no power lines or anything like that. There’s even a LOT of space between road signs on the shoulder. But... he hit one. It’s a very rural road.

    I don’t know the systems of the aircraft well enough to answer if that was possible or not but I suspect not.
     
  31. WannFly

    WannFly En-Route

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    Great outcome. Thanks for sharing. Now, since I just passed my checkride and everything is still fresh in my head.... thought u aren't supposed to move the debris until FAA got There? Unless there was risk of further damage .... not questioning ur judgement or action, just trying to figure out in a similar situation what would I do

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk
     
  32. Sinistar

    Sinistar Line Up and Wait

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    Wow to the entire story :) Pretty cool you were there Nate! Just think if it was worse, a fellow pilot and friend would have been there to help him immediately!!!

    I was going to ask about moving stuff too. Obviously you took photos so no doubt you're covered and the parts are less likely to be "further damaged" or cause harm to others.
     
  33. mtnflyr

    mtnflyr Pre-Flight

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    You could argue you moved the pieces to prevent injury to the public which would be ok. Cars hitting it and causes a accident, and it would further damage the wreckage
     
  34. Zeldman

    Zeldman Final Approach

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    I witnessed an accident once. Pilot, only one on board, walked away with a few bruises.

    The FAA called me the next day and asked me what I saw. I told them. They asked if I had a camera. (back when cell phones were just phones) Yes, I have a camera. Ok, buy a new roll of film, fill it up with pictures and send it to us along with the receipt and we will reimburse you. I did as asked.

    FAA never came to look at the plane, and determined the cause of the accident was a take off stall. They determined that from my written statement.

    And I am still waiting to be reimbursed.....
     
  35. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    In this particular case the debris on the road had nothing to do with the airplane falling from the sky. No reason not to move it since it isn’t involved in determination of the cause.
     
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  36. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Interview is posted in another thread to keep it separate.

    All of the above. People were flying through the accident scene until the Shreriff’s deputies arrived and one Deputy noted that some idiot drove through taking pictures when the road was down to one lane.

    I took photos of where all the pieces came to rest before we dragged the big pieces out of the road and offered those to the Sheriff and mentioned to him that the FAA might want them, and the Sheriff had me forward them to him. He thanked me for taking them and assisting the pilot and other bystander and helping them know what happened.

    Word from the pilot tonight was that the FAA rep was friendly and helpful in figuring out all the next steps including how to move the aircraft, and said that in cases like this one with power loss and a successful forced landing there likely wouldn’t be much if any issue with them. They’re just as happy to see a pilot make a successful forced landing with nobody on the ground hurt, no serious property damage, and the pilot up walking and talking without a scratch on them.

    That is, after all, why we all train for that day that can eventually happen. And we train it over and over and over to the point where we joke that every time we fly with an instructor our engines always have a simulated failure.

    Now that I’ve had time to look at the photos I see how the airplane ended up turned like it was. Airplane departed the road leaving skid marks for the left tire after it hit the road sign on the right wing, pretty much knocking the right wing clean off. Wingtip somehow launched itself and was lying across the double yellow on the left (north) side of the road right near the double yellow. Rest of the wing was a balled up pile of aluminum just after the road sign impact point on the south side. That shed a lot of energy right there. Aircraft was eastbound.

    Airplane then got turned into the ditch which was a solid three foot drop into a medium deep drainage ditch and bounced through it leaving two ruts for the main gear as it was tossed upward as it came out of the ditch into a T-Post and barbed wire fence.

    It looks like the nose gear caught on the fence and ripped the barbed wire off of the t-posts which also started slowing the aircraft and either the mains jumped higher than the nosegear or they somehow got over it and now the airplane is in the soft field just beyond the fence and it held on to the nose gear. Further slowing the aircraft as the barbed wire pulled out like a guitar string.

    Somewhere in the off road excursion the nose gear folded back about 40 degrees.

    Airplane was then twisted back toward the road by the nose gear sliding down the taught wire which held on as it twisted around by being above and aft of the nose gear and causing the airplane to slide sideways, which collapsed the right main pushing it inboard and folding it badly as the airplane slid. At this point no right wing and main gear folded it just slid sideways to a stop in the field about 150-200 yards from impact with the road sign.

    Ended up pointing nearly head on to the road (northeast, more north than east) and looking right across the road at where the Jeep stopped.

    Left wing was largely intact. Nose didn’t appear to have any marks on it at all nor the prop. Tail was low at rest for a nosedragger because of the folded nosegear and right main holding the nose and cockpit up.

    Left main has to have taken a good side load also but it remained what looked mostly vertical but the airplane was cockeyed to the right at rest.

    I’ll share this thread with the pilot and ask his permission to possibly post some of the photos later. He still has a lot to do and think about right now. And of course any further FAA investigation.

    But in all, I’m just glad he’s completely fine. When I talked to him tonight he was home and he and his wife were sitting down to a late supper.

    Amazing and surreal.
     
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  37. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    @PaulS thread title for the interview is “And then I was on the news” ...
     
  38. asicer

    asicer Pattern Altitude

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    Well he did comply with NTSB830.10(c)

    And 830.10(b) is somewhat ambiguous as to whether it only applies to the operator of the accident aircraft or to anyone and everyone.
     
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  39. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Very dry in Denver today. There was a pretty good inversion early. Probably zero chance of carb ice.
     
  40. Salty

    Salty Pattern Altitude

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    This reminds me of the thread where some were saying they'd land in the lane against oncoming traffic instead of with the traffic......