Category Archives: Stupid Pilot Tricks

Not Following the Checklist

The process of natural selection is still at work in aviation. While I’d like to see all student pilots get their license, here’s one goofball that deserves to be grounded until pigs fly. Perhaps he fancied himself as the next Colton Harris-Moore who is in solitary confinement and wasn’t able to comment.

Amazing. This guy was still revving the engine when the police arrived. He must have been wondering, for at least a few minutes, why the plane wouldn’t budge at max RPM. The skies are just a little bit safer today.

Speed Flying

Quite possibly more exhilarating than flying in one of those bat suits, combining two high risk activites into one neat package.

Speedflying is similar to low altitude airplane flying in that you’re travelling at high speeds close to potential obstacles like trees and rocks which will ruin your day if you misjudge distances. A disclaimer on one site states: “Problems arise when inexperienced Speed-Flyers are unaware of the number of things that can go wrong at any time – during take off, while in the air, on the ground, and during landing.”. That pretty much covers everything.

If that video didn’t inspire you have a look at this one involving a speedflyer riding the top of a cable. Aerobatics seem tame by comparison. I have a number of things on my bucket list. This didn’t make the cut.

Croc’s on a Plane

Three unusual aircraft accidents in the news recently.  Most aviation accidents follow a known accident sequence, such as fuel exhaustion or inadvertent flight into IMC. Many times, the outcome is tragic but predictable.

I’ve never heard of a plane downed by a reptile…until now. An L-410 twin turboprop crashed killing the pilot and 19 others after a crocodile smuggled in a duffel bag escaped, causing a stampede toward the front of the cabin, throwing the aircraft out of balance. This was in the Republic of Congo and obviously no  X-Ray machines . I can’t help but wish that a TSA employee with an attitude had opened that bag for inspection.

 Next up: A powered parachute tangled with a balloon. One of the paragliders in the Arizona Airfest got a little too close to a hot air balloon, became entangled in the ropes, and tore the balloon fabric, causing it to deflate. Both aircraft fell about 500 feet from the sky severely injuring everyone.  A balloon has virtually no maneuverability and this knucklehead got as close as he could. Note that a balloon has the right of way over any other category of aircraft by regulation. Criminal charges will be forthcoming.


Lastly, while there are unfortunately hundreds of light airplane accidents every year, it’s rare for a pilot to be equipped with a parachute for egress in a general aviation plane unless he /she is performing aerobatics.  Supposedly, the pilot bailed out after experiencing control failure in a single-engine Aero Commander. Just a little too convenient to be sitting on a chute which isn’t  all that comfortable. Reminds me of this guy.

Only in California

Here’s something new:  An arrest for FUI or Flying Under the Influence… in California. 

He nearly crashed into an aircraft that was preparing for takeoff on another runway before he finally touched down and then went off the runway into sage brush, made a U-turn back onto the runway, and parked the plane.Upon entering the terminal, he declared, “I just scared the s— out of myself.” He then asked, “Where am I?” When he was advised that he was in Bishop, he responded, “Where is that in relationship to the rest of the world?”An Inyo County sheriff’s deputy responded to the airport and administrated field sobriety tests, which Mr. McEnry failed. Hey said that he had used marijuana and Oxycontin and always “flies high” and also admitted that he did not have a pilot’s license 

 How did it take so long for “the system” to finally catch up with this goofball? 1,200 hours without  a license and ostensibly much of that time incapacitated.  Not that we need more regulations but it baffles me that this one slipped through the net for years while well-known and respected aviation educators John and Martha King were recently surrounded by three squad cars with guns drawn and handcuffed in a case of mistaken (aircraft) identity. 

Oh wait. That was also in California… 

h/t to Rob

Emergency Revocation

Avweb reminds us that some  pilots out there don’t belong behind a yoke. Joe Kirbow is one of them.

A Little Bit Nuts

My travels around the country took me to Meridian Mississippi , hopefully to  drum up new business. My airport destination: Key Field.  There’s a small pax terminal next to the 186th Air National Guard and NAS Meridian is 20 miles northeast.

Key Field was named after Fred and Al Key established an endurance record in their Curtiss Robin with 27 days aloft. A few displays in the small terminal area gave witness to their feat and it was scary stuff indeed at that time. Flying in shifts, the men maintained the plane by stepping outside on a catwalk that went around both sides of the engine. In those days, rocker arms had to be oiled but not usually while hanging on a scaffold with prop blast in your face at 3,000 feet. Fred actually fell overboard once and was saved by a strap.

Meanwhile, Fred had two mishaps while acting as crew. Once he was momentarily stunned when the heavy refueling hose slipped out of his hands and struck him in the face. Later, when he was on the catwalk greasing the engine rocker arms, Ole Miss hit a pocket of turbulent air, bucked and tossed him overboard.


                                                                 An amazing story that proved air to air refueling would work using  a cutoff valve similar in concept to those used to keep bombers and fighters aloft today. That was useful. This is not. 

Chet and Matt Pipkin plan to set a new record for time aloft in an airplane, a record that currently sits at 64 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes and five seconds.

I really wish they wouldn’t . It relegates general aviation to the same scrap heap as other strange world records including:

  1. Heaviest weight lifted with a human beard: 130.2 lbs by a man in Lithuania
  2. Fastest time to solve a Rubik Cube blindfolded: 5 minutes 42 seconds by Ralf Laue in Los Angeles, CA
  3. Most figure eights with a kite: 2,911 figure eights in one hour set in 1988.
  4. Longest midget toss: Yes, this is actually tossing a little person and it is an annual event. The record is 11 feet 5 inches.
  5. Fastest Furniture: 87 mph. This sofa is actually street legal.

It won’t paint GA with a positive brush nor will it encourage people to become pilots.  I’ve seen the current record holding airplane in the Las Vegas airport. 64 days back in 1959. It ‘s appropriate somehow in a city where multiple Elvis’s roam the streets. The Pipkins supposedly plan to raise money for charitable causes with the flight, which is admirable. They better raise a lot since the costs aren’t trivial. I estimate 93,000 pounds of fuel at a cost of $73,000.

It’s not wrong to challenge yourself, to establish goals. Son #2 will train six months to compete in the Ironman this summer.  Staying aloft in a light plane for more than two months without going anywhere is just another goofy stunt to break a record.

Don’t try this at home

…or anywhere else.
A game of chicken with car and plane ended badly.First the pilot’s skills were not all the good. Second, The pilots judgement was not all that good. A stupid pilot trick that will result in suspension or revocation of a hard-earned pilots license.

Doing It Wrong

The December issue of Flying features an article by Peter Garrison about a Piper Arrow that disintegrated during a cross country flight. The airplane came to earth widely scattered in a number of pieces. The outer panels of both wings separated. The roof of the cabin had been ripped off forcing the flight instructor and student to descend from 10,000 feet in an open tub with stumps for wings. Interviews with other instructors at the school revealed that the pilot, a CFI, had a propensity for startling passengers with unannounced spins; barrel rolls; snap rolls. The plane used was capable of 3.8Gs with maneuvering speed of 116 kias but the last radar contact indicated 134 kias. The instructor apparently performed these maneuvers to impress and amaze students. No doubt both were amazed when the airplane disassembled on their final and fatal snap roll which is a particularly violent maneuver.

My commercial instructor was cut of the same cloth as the accident pilot. He was a very good airman. However, during the training flight he would put the plane through spins, rolls and even a hammerhead without advance notice of what to expect. The Skylane was not really up to the challenge and if something went wrong there were no options. The FAR’s stipulate that parachutes be used and emergency egress (doors / canopy that can be jettisoned) must be available in planes certificated for aerobatics and clearly he was in violation. I think he was bored with teaching and always wanted to have a little fun along with wowing the students.  However, he began driving students away. They were paying to learn and he actually terrified some of them. Garrison says there is a double standard in some pilots that mistake flying skill- the ability to control the plane, with good airmanship- not flaunting the FAA regulations or the laws of physics.  So choose your instructors wisely.

I decided to find another CFI and in the intervening years,  my original instructor hasn’t appeared in the NTSB accident reports. At least not yet.

Lighten Up

Buzzing the neighbor’s house: You might get a reprimand from the FAA. You might also get your plane plenty perforated.  Flying in Thomson, Georgia could be as hazardous as  forward air control duty  in Vietnam.

Outside, at least one of the men accosted the aircraft and its pilot, reportedly threatening to shoot down the plane if it flew over homes that low again.

Must be a new dimension in Southern hospitality.


I’m thinking legal altitudes will increase longevity in Georgia.  Either that, or a really fast plane.


Did you hear a clanging sound when we took off?