Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Cessna Crash in Orlando

Earlier this week a pilot died in a crash of a Cessna 172. This is a real tragedy and one that I think could have been avoided...we'll know more about how it could have been avoided following the FAA/NTSB investigation.

The unusual thing about this crash was that the Channel 6 news helicopter was nearby when the plane reported his mayday and was able to film the crash. I watched the video over and over to see why he crashed into a telephone pole. The idiot reporters tried to sound like they knew what they were talking about and it was clear that none of them were pilots. They made statements like "he was trying to land on the golf course fairway - that's a great place to land and something that pilots always look for in an emergency".

The video clearly shows that he was not lined up on the fairway. Although there was a golf course nearby, it appears that the pilot was attempting to land on the road in front of the golf course clubhouse. As the plane flew lower and lower, the video seems to indicate that he was lined up on the road, not over the golf course. Contrary to their written copy on the Channel 6 website, he did not crash on the golf course. The road looks like it is only two lanes wide with maybe a turn lane in the middle. There are trees on either side of the road.

The video starts with the plane about 50' AGL in a slight nose down attitude, flaps partially extended. The plane looks like it swerves to avoid trees as it comes down. There is traffic on the road moving in the same direction as the plane. You can see flaps extended, but only about one notch, certainly not full flaps. The plane banks slightly left, then quickly to the right. An SUV appears in site as the plane passes it in a hard right bank. The right wing contacts the ground, then the nose strikes a concrete power pole. The SUV then passes the plane narrowly missing it...looks like he keeps going down the road.

Perhaps the pilot was swerving to avoid the SUV. Perhaps he stalled the plane during the maneuver causing the right wing to lose lift. Who can say?

One of the pilots died in surgery following the crash.

Why didn't the pilot try to land on the golf course? Why did he swerve? What caused the engine to quit? (The video is not clear enough to determine if the propeller was windmilling or stationary.) Maybe he was lined up on the fairway, but didn't get down soon enough and then banked left to line up on the road. He crashed to the left of a putting green in front of what appears to be the clubhouse.

The link to the video is

Perhaps greater emphasis should be placed on performing short field, dead stick landings in our flight training. I think I'll do one on Saturday.

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