It's funny how just the other day I mentioned that it's rare for planes to develop non-fuel related engine problems. Well a two seat Piper Cherokee landed on I-680 yesterday afternoon after developing engine trouble. And it didn't run out of gas either. ;-)
According to the Mercury News:
No one was injured as the plane touched down near Mission Boulevard just before 3 p.m., clogging commute traffic only briefly.
An instructor pilot and a student had departed Reid-Hillview Airport in East San Jose at 2 p.m. They were on their way back when the two-seater Piper Cherokee 140 began encountering difficulties.
After the occupants warned the nearest airport, in Hayward, they landed on the freeway as motorists -- without any help from police or the California Highway Patrol -- slowed and made way for the aircraft. The white-and-blue plane then taxied to the right-hand shoulder along the southbound lanes.
It sounds like they did exactly what they should have done: they got the plane down safely.
There was some discussion at our safety seminar the other night about landing on roads. Len mentioned that landing on a road is often not the best option you have. But in this case, they seem to have picked a good one. I-680 is many lanes wide and basically straight in that area. When landing on a multi-lane highway like this, I suspect there are two major problems to watch out for:
- bridges and overpasses
- cars that don't see you coming
Luckily bridges and overpasses are usually spaced out enough that you can probably make it work if you're at a reasonable altitude. Dealing with traffic is more difficult. Those guys landing around 3pm when I-680 isn't yet wall to wall cars. They got lucky. At 5pm it would have been far more difficult to do.
If I was doing that in a plane where the engine completely quit (it sounds like they had partial power), I'd probably dive at the road and use the airspeed to hold the plane roughly 10 feet off the pavement until the energy dissipated. That'd give drivers a better chance of seeing me and reacting. Because, let's face it, most drivers aren't looking up at the sky our out of sunroofs when heading down the highway. So the longer you give the to slow down and make room, the better your chances are.
Anyway, I'm scheduled to fly at Reid-Hillview Airport this weekend. I'm sure there will be lots of hangar talk about this incident.
BTW, the picture at the right came from Steve Foster. He said:
A student pilot in our flight club hit a bird on takeoff. When landing, the damaged wing didn't have any lift and she slide off the side of the runway and flipped the plane. She walked away unharmed and was cool enough to shutdown the electrical systems and grab her purse and flight bag.
She had no hesitation returning to the air.
While aviation accidents aren't good to see, knowing that the pilots often walk away from them sure is encouraging.
Note to Bay Area Pilots: There's another FAA Safety Seminar tonight at the Radisson Plaza Hotel near SJC called "Do the Right Thing: Decision Making for Pilots." It looks to be an excellent session.
Posted by jzawodn at January 05, 2006 07:46 AM