The larger size of some of todays popular aircraft demand extreme judgment in addition to piloting skills in order to fly them safely. The picture above is a promotion ad but I want to show the size of the airplane compared to a person. Add to this size difference the flying speed, even at a stall, and the weight of the airplane, and a person does not stand a chance in an encounter with one.
I recently witnessed first hand poor judgment taking its toll at a fly-in. A gentleman with an IMAC size airplane was having some issues with his engine. I am uncertain as to why he decided to try and fly knowing that he had a good chance of losing power in flight but he did. I hoped that he was intending on a quick couple laps to test an adjustment and not the thought of something magically fixing it for him in the air. In either case after a few basic maneuvers (no idea why this was done) his large aircraft lost power.
The huge plane was about 30 feet in altitude just on the other side of the runway about center field. The pilot immediately banked hard and pointed the nose directly down at the runway building tremendous speed in the process. It was also very apparent that he did not apply any rudder to attempt to line up to the runway. He was going to put his prized possession on the ground at the airfield at all cost with total disregard to those around him. He slammed the plane down a few feet from the rough grass separating the runway from the pilots ready area with the nose of the airplane pointing at the pits.
Luckily the 4 people working on starting another airplane in the ready area noticed what was going on in time to get out of the way. The IMAC sized aircraft bounced up and over their airplane that they did not have time to move and headed straight towards myself, two other gentleman, and a very nice young man who was the son of one of the gentleman. (not to mention all of our airplanes, flight gear, and transportation) It was about this time I yelled a warning to those around me just in time to see the huge airplane plow into an engine test stand. Luckily it was sturdy enough to both stop and demolish the plane. I then decided it was time to go since I had noticed earlier that this was not his only airplane this size and he was not going to be stopped from flying dangerously.
Now let’s look at what went wrong other than the fact that I did not step in and alert the CD when I saw what was going on with the engine.
1. If the engine isn’t running correctly on the ground IT IS NOT GOING TO RUN CORRECTLY IN THE AIR
2. All of us have taken a few laps on a bad running engine to see if it leans out or if an adjustment worked at all. This is not the time to start trying maneuvers! Announce what you are doing to others BEFORE taking off, make your lap, and land.
3. When you point the nose down the aircraft is GOING TO BUILD SPEED. This is one of the laws of physics that is NEVER going to change. Landing by diving at the runway NEVER works.
4. Even without power your airplane has to be on a straight line course with the runway or it is going to veer drastically when the gear touch down.
How do I know these things? From making the same mistakes and learning from them. I am not trying to single out an individual for making some bad judgments. There were plenty of us there that should have stepped in but we all try to think the best of things will happen. I am hoping that others can learn from this instead of putting people and property at risk.
The proper way to handle this would have been to not get excited and make a procedure turn to line up with the runway. Establish a reasonable descent and land. If this could not have been done then wings level and land in the next best area away from people is what has to be done. THERE IS NEVER A CHOICE TO ENDANGER PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!
These large aircraft are very impressive in both looks and performance but they take split second decision making skills to fly. Most people who pilot these aircraft are experienced to the point that the decisions are simply “second nature” to them. Just because you can buy it does not mean that you can fly it. You have to make certain to build your skills and decision making abilities to meet the venue that you want to partake in.
Happy Flying and be SAFE