Crash Course

The Extra 300 is a marvelous unlimited aerobatic plane with a spritely climb rate of 4,000 feet/minute, a roll rate of 420 degrees / per second and rated for 10 g’s.  I logged in to schedule time in the plane with an instructor only to find that it was listed out of service for six weeks. (The actual plane is depicted on the right side of the page, right above the “Blogroll”).That’s a mighty long time so I contacted the chief pilot. The plane was indeed out of service. Permanently. It had been totaled.

“What happened?!” I asked “ Remember that old Warrior on the ramp?” said the chief pilot “The guy in the Piper wasn’t paying attention after start-up and didn’t have the brakes set.  Apparently he was distracted by something as the plane taxied along and sliced into the Extra 300 parked in front of our hanger….knocked it right out of the chocks. Both planes are complete losses”.  I know the relative distance between both areas and the only explanation is that the Warrior pilot must have been reading the paper. Or taking a short nap. How do you lose awareness that you’re behind the wheel of a plane in motion?

Taxiing is usually the least demanding part of a flight, a fact that leads many pilots to discount the need for attention or to attempt to multitask on their way to the runway. The rolling runup used by some charter operators comes to mind.

Simply put, it’s inattention. These are the people who get out of the airplane and walk into a spinning prop. They’re the pilots who start the engine and bury their heads in the cockpit to work radios or fold charts while the airplane meanders across the ramp. They taxi down perimeter roads and hit poles. They start taxiing with one wing still tied down, spinning the airplane in a circle and crunching something nearby. One pilot who was taxiing in thought it critical he retrieve a chart that had fallen on the floor in front of the right seat. He rammed a trailer that had been parked on the taxiway. The accordion plane shown below was the result of another pilot who let the plane get away from him. A little Bondo and I’m sure it’ll buff right out.

The variety of miscellaneous accidents also illustrates how problems can sneak up on you. The airplane can get blown over by a jet blast or prop wash from another airplane. You can stumble into a construction zone. One pilot’s sleeve caught on the throttle and advanced it to full power suddenly.

Taxi accidents prove the wisdom in an old saying usually applied to tailwheel airplanes: Fly it from the time the engine starts until you shut the engine down.

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5 responses to “Crash Course

  1. Pingback: Crash Course « Blue Side Up | Charter Airplane

  2. A good buddy of mine just taxied a Queen Air into the back of another one at Minneapolis Int. last month. He was waiting in line for departure with 7 other Queen Air’s and had his head down doing paperwork when his parking break slipped. The next he knew his right prop was chewing up the tail of the plane in front of him. Didn’t push the peddles down hard enough I guess. Bummer.

    • You’d normally expect inattentiveness to bite a pilot in higher speed, higher risk situations. Not anything as mudane as tooling around the airport.
      It takes a good deal of experience and skill to end up flying the Queen Air. I guess the message is: It can happen to anyone.
      I want it to not be me.

  3. virgil xenophon

    Nothing simple about flying. I’ve heard guys get into 20min animated discussions about taxiing techniques alone…LOL.

    • Flying is definitely not like driving a car but taxiing should be the most simple phase of flight.
      Maybe that’s how pilots gets into trouble. You might get away with a moment of inattention while operating a car. Not so much with a plane.

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