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Two Cautionary Tales

Hot and High - and a Case for Parachutes

Flying into trees is probably not high on any pilot's wish list, nor is losing your tail with 10 skydivers aboard.

In the first example, a pilot learned the hard way that flying a heavily loaded airplane on a hot day from a high elevation is a good way to end up chopping down a few trees and narrowly avoiding the grim reaper. Here's what a passenger had to say about the incident: "After flying up into the mountains for a hike in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, we were planning on flying to a small mountain town for dinner. Due to warming temperatures, we had a hard time gaining altitude. After taking off we hit an air pocket that made us rapidly lose altitude, pushing us down into the trees."

After watching the video several times, one wonders why the pilot didn't put the airplane down on the runway after having difficulty getting airborne. After leaving the runway behind, the pilot still had ample room to maneuver away from the trees over wide-open terrain. Once over the trees, however, he was fully committed and had to accept the consequences of what was to come. The one good takeaway from this incident, other than all three people having survived, is that the pilot flew the airplane into the trees. Instead of stalling the aircraft and crashing straight down, he did maintain flying speed all the way in. You can see the pilot's hands on the throttle and yoke all the way to the ground. Never stop flying the plane!

The second example involves loss of control after separation of a control surface when a skydiver's parachute opened prematurely. Barry Dawson was piloting the airplane that day. After the skydiver became entangled in the tail of the aircraft, it was only a matter of seconds until the tail separated from the aircraft. Barry maintained aircraft control long enough for the remaining 10 skydivers to exit before extricating himself from the stricken aircraft just a couple seconds before impact. Watch the video

Both of these videos highlight the importance of flying the airplane as long as possible. The second video demonstrates that sometimes only a parachute will prevent total disaster.

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