2008/07/14

Making the Six O'clock News

My first flight instructor used to tell me, "Any landing you can walk alway from is a good one". I always wondered if he would still say that if I really bent his airplane, but happily I never found out.

Well, my nephew Lewis who, as you may recall from the posts "Celebrity Alert" and "The Aviator" is a flight instructor at Santa Monica Airport in Southern California, actually proved it the other day!

Here's Lewis in the video featured in "The Aviator" post, standing by the Cessna Cutlass in which he made the emergency landing.

He was giving a graduation exam for a student who was working on his commercial pilot's license. Flying over Simi Valley, California, in the school's Cessna Cutlass 172RG they were preparing to do a maneuver required by the FAA for the check ride. It's called "eights on pylons" and consists of flying low level figure eights around two ground reference points.

After descending, the student applied throttle to level out before they reached the area - a farm - over which they would fly the eights. As he did so, nothing happened. The engine continued to just idle merrily along. Uh-oh (polite version). Apparently there was a problem with the throttle linkage. No time to ponder that now...

The farm they had been heading for was on the other side of a freeway and it did not look like they would be able to glide over it. They were over a field already, but it was small, and they were not lined up for it.

The student asked Lewis to take control. Lewis lowered the gear and flaps and put the plane into a side slip to lose altitude quickly while they were still over the field, all the while turning to get the longest landing area possible. I'm sure that all his own training came to mind - things all pilots have drilled into them in one form or another - never stop flying the airplane, what happens to the plane is not important, your survival is, watch thine airspeed or the ground shall rise up and smite thee, and so on. Perhaps different words or it was all automatic, but all his skill was brought to bear on getting them down safely.

(above) Frame from the aerial news coverage. Click on the picture to see the video. To clarify - the news got it wrong, there were just the two of them in the plane, not the 3 or 4 mentioned by the reporter.

As they got lower they were running out of level ground. As he was pulling up, the nose wheel hit a lip or berm and they bounced and flipped upside down, stopping only about 40 feet from where the nose gear hit.

The good news is that they both walked away and suffered only minor cuts and bruises. "Any landing you can walk away from.... "

His dad - a retired United Air Lines pilot - picked them up from Simi Valley Hospital and returned them to Santa Monica Airport.

Lewis had stayed on the controls through the whole landing (crash) so has more sore muscles than his student and a splint on one wrist, but as he put it, he may be sore, but he has a big smile on his face. He's got a little time off to recuperate and spend some quality time with his wife Kris and their two children.

Good landing, Lewis! Love you. Stay safe out there.

10 comments:

K & S said...

wow! what a great post! I'm glad he and the student were able to walk away from it.

nzm said...

Great landing. So good that Lewis and his student walked away from it.

ladybug said...

That truly is a situation where you have no one to rely on but yourself..and his training and level-headedness got them through it!

Glad all is well.

Don Snabulus said...

I am so glad the guys walked away and came out of it so well.

The reporting was comical. If you notice, the picture caption said nobody was hurt. Good thing reporters don't fly planes.

Happysurfer said...

That was scary! Glad Lewis and student were able to walk away from it.

Pandabonium said...

Thanks all. Most of the time a light plane that loses power can glide to a safe landing - or least one that can be walked away from. The lower the altitude, however, the fewer the options and tougher it gets. Lewis came through when it counted (as I've always known he would).

The Moody Minstrel said...

Talk about the ultimate test of skill! I'm extremely happy he passed. Well done!

The Moody Minstrel said...

Incidentally, that story got mentioned on Fark.com right after it happened. I didn't realize it was your nephew!

Robin said...

Wow.. a close brush with death.

Again proof that practice prevents panic and thus saves life.

Swinebread said...

Scary but I so happy they made it OK.

I say this on the News, I didn't realize it was Lewis!