Dennis M asked in Cars & TransportationAircraft · 1 decade ago

What was your closest "close call"?

This should be interesting...

Mine was one I learned a lot from. I learned to fly in Colorado, 5,000 foot field elevations and in the summer density altitudes of 8,000 are the norm, 9,000' isn't too uncommon. I learned what density altitude can do first hand, but I also learned that it's something you can deal with if you have a long runway, no obstructions, and a good running airplane. Flying a 110hp 152 on a 90 degree day I'd see 400 fpm on initial climb and that actually won't be too bad. It is what it is and I learned to deal with it.

I moved to Arizona for a while to do some flying and get out of my hometown. I found a 172N for $95 an hour and I flew the wings off that thing. It ran smooth but didn't have the power of most airplanes in the area I flew. It was still 160hp, but it was old and tired, compression checks were all border line, but it came back from MX with a clean bill of health every time. Other than being under powered it never gave me any problems.

I went on a long cross country to see the area and build some time. I went from Glendale Az all the way to Farmington Nm, almost a 4 hour flight. On the way up I had no problems, I got up to 8,000' with no problem and continued my climb for about another hour to reach 11,500, less than 100 fpm most of the way. I landed at FMN, went into town to get some food while I had my plane topped off. This is a 5,506 foot airport, it was about 85 degrees. That is a little over 8,300 foot density altitude. There was a 6,500 foot runway, winds were light and variable. I figured I should be off the ground within 2,000 feet or so should be able to climb at at least 500 fpm based on what I've seen before with similar airplanes in similar conditions. I didn't take into consideration the tired engine of this airplane.

I took off, rotated more or less where I expected to, got into ground effect and the airspeed didn't want to go past 65 and I wasn't climbing. I gave the throttle an extra push hoping for a little more juice but got nothing. As the end of the runway was coming up something happened and I got some lift, a climb, and some speed. Not much of any, but a little bit. I got up to about 400 feet, turned cross wind and hit an area of sink. Bad sink. The ground was coming up quickly from below and before I knew it I was maybe 100 feet off the ground over some rough terrain. I tried to slowly circle back to the runway when I caught a thermal. I called up tower, told them I was riding that thermal as high as it would take me. I got about 1,500 feet out of it before it faded away, but that was enough for me to get fly around and find some calm air and get back to my expected few hundred feet a minute climb.

I've never had to fly an airplane like a glider out of necessity, and I hope I never have to again. I found out quickly that just because an airplane is a certain model, with a familiar engine, does not mean it will fly like you may think. Calculation density altitude and looking at the book numbers doesn't mean a thing when the airplane isn't making full power. I also learned that for every pocket of lift, there is a pocket of sink. It's one thing to learn about that while playing around with thermals, it's another to be almost killed by a pocket of sink, then be saved by some lift.

There are lots of things I could have done differently, this was a few years ago and I would like to think I have learned from that mistake. Maybe someone else can learn from it too.

What's your best story?

11 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Oh, having flown regional airlines, corporate, the alaska bush, aerial firefighting, instructing, swordfish spotting far offshore, "traffic watch" in LA and a few other things I have a few good lies to tell, but I guess the "closest call" was the 19 year old stewardess I nearly married. In retrospect, big sigh of relief, I avoided that accident.

    As for a real flying story, one of the funnier and more memorable incidents was a primary flight student I had. Real nice fellow, very polite, attentive, good learner, always caled me "sir" or "Mr" and would probably have jumped out of the plane without a parachute if I had told him to and assured him it was perfectly safe. An ideal student in most respects.

    One day we were doing pattern work at a controlled airport. It started off fine and not too busy, but eventually things got hectic and he was concentrating more and more on the radio than flying. On one circuit we got extended on downwind quite a ways due to commercial traffic, but he continued his "normal" downwind descent. I let him dig a little hole waiting for him to realize where this was leading. So, here we are over a mile from the runway over a densely populated area and he keeps descending on downwind, reducing power and adding flaps while trying to listen to the radio chatter and spot traffic (in my book, you gotta give students a lot of rope or they don't learn. We learn best through our mistakes, not by getting things right all the time).

    Finally, at about 500 feet I couldn't let it go further so I said "Fly the Airplane!" There was radio chatter and he said "What? 450 feet, 60 knots, full flaps, a mile out. I repeated "Fly the Airplane!" more loudly. More radio chatter and he said "What"? 400 feet, 55 knots. Finally I yelled " IGNORE THE EFFING RADIO AND FLY THE GD AIRPLANE". A light bulb went on in his head and I could clearly see in his expression that he "got it". So here we are at about 400 feet turning base at 55 knots a mile or so from the runway. Low and slow and a long way out. A classic stall/spin just waiting to happen.

    And what he heard me say was not "fly the airplane" but "stall the airplane"! Without question he swiftly hauled full back on the stick and performed a beautiful full-flap approach to landing stall with a clean break, just like we'd practiced innumerable times at 3,000 feet. Yes, I kid you not, he fully stalled the airplane! My perfect "yes sir" student, compliant with my every request.

    Needless to say, he caught me quite completely by surprise. After I recovered my heartbeat I recovered the airplane at about 250 feet. Afterward he said he though it an unusual request to stall the plane at that point, but maybe it was just another one of those "special" training excercises I'd put him through that aren't in the "book". As I said, I swear he would have lept out of the plane if I had asked him to.

    Live and learn is all I can say. Wisdom comes from experience, and some of our most valuable experiences involve screwing up. What doesn't kill us makes us better pilots. Just a word of wisdom to those who might be considering instructing as a "time builder" toward other things.

  • 1 decade ago

    Mine's not quite as good as some of these, but considering the fact that I was an 11 year old girl at the time, it was pretty dang scary.

    My dad is a private pilot (I'm training to become one now). We have a small grass airstrip by our house and have a small hangar that we store our planes in. At the time, Dad had an old Army Aeronca Champ (L16). We flew that airplane a lot. This time though, we'd gone out in the late afternoon and dad had let me fly most of the day, of course, when it was time to land, he'd taken over the controls. It was getting close to time for the sun to set and our airstrip faces directly where the sun goes down, so right as dad put the flaps down, the sun hit that point where its halfway below the horizon and halfway above it, at this time, the sun was nearly blinding. So, in a quick decision, dad decided it would be better to circle back around and let the sun set rather then land without being able to see. Well, the problem was that as we began to climb, we clipped a tree limb, therefore spinning the light airplane around in a one-eighty that ended when it smashed into the tree. The wing collapsed onto the only exit door. We managed to push open the door and we both climbed out. Luckily, the plane didn't catch fire, even though there was fuel everywhere.

  • 1 decade ago

    Well I just recently passed my PPL check ride. About 3 weeks ago I was on a mock checkride flight in a familiar 172 with an insturctor i'd never flown with. It was just like any checkride i had planned a cross country and had all my frequencies and vors on my little sheet. So we were coming into a small uncontrolled airport for a landing. About ten miles out i had just got the weather and switched my frequency to the CTAF. I knew the frequency was 122.8, but for some reason I put in 128.8. So we got to the field... and we were going to pass over midfield and make a teardrop for left traffic 13. As i descended and started my turn to circle around for downwind i happened to see an airplane on a 45 maybe 2 miles out and i thought It was weird he wasnt making any radio calls but I shrugged it off. I continued my turn and saw a plane turning off the runway.. Now it was VERY weird for two planes to not be making any radio calls at all and i checked my frequency and found my mistake. I immediatly stated my position and intentions. By the time i was on downwind I saw another plane turning left base.

    So even though I was lucky enough to not get in anybody's way or god forbid crash into anyone I proceeded for a safe landing on the correct frequency. The instructor later said it was good I figured out on my own that i had the wrong frequency, but I probably should have gotten out of the pattern instead of landing. So that was a good lesson that could have been more of a close call had i not seen the traffic.

  • Pat
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    Mine's not nearly as interesting as others', since I only just finished my private pilot course, but it shook me up a bit regardless. I was coming back into DAB with my instructor, after working on shorts and softs out at XFL, and we were given a right base for 25R. Meanwhile, it bears mentioning that 25L is often used for closed traffic, students working on patterns and touch-and-go's and the like. One of the pilots in left traffic for 25L apparently told tower that the next one would be the last, full stop and taxi back to the ramp, so tower had allegedly told him "Cleared to land 25L." Around about that same time, I was cleared to land 25R. My instructor told me to make it a short-field landing and was focused intently on my glidepath. Meanwhile, imagine my surprise when I had some VERY close company turning final on my runway. Close enough to see two silhouettes, and if I had looked closely enough I probably could've made out the tail number, but that wasn't exactly a priority. They were just a bit above us and off my left shoulder, no more than 200 feet or so, and I was becoming more and more certain that they didn't know I was there. So after persistent whining on my part, instructor called up tower and confirmed we were cleared to land at 25R, which, of course, we were. The other guy, of course, heard none of this, since he was still on 118.1, the frequency for 25L, and not 120.7, that of 25R. Nor did I hear him receive what must've been a side-step, because he touched down on 25L mere seconds after I did on 25R. Ground had already been giving him an earful by the time I queued up 121.9. In retrospect, we weren't that close, and going around would have easily avoided any problems, but it still freaked me out quite a bit.

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  • 1 decade ago


    I wasn't a Pilot yet... But as a Student , I was signed off to take out the Cessna 172 myself.

    I was practicing maneuvers.... At the time , I was practicing "Slow Flight"....

    Then.... I wanted to stall the Plane...

    I did , and recovered .... BUT... not enough...

    I got into a secondary stall.... But was still in the recovery "Mode"...

    and I pushed in the Throttle , and reached for the Flaps....

    When I pushed in the Throttle... The plane WHIPPED into a DIVING SPIN....

    I knew to PULL POWER.... I reached for it.... MISSED !

    I Reached for it again.... MISSED !!!

    I looked into the cockpit grabbed the throttle , hit the rudder and recovered....

    HOLY CRAP !!!!!!!!

    I went to a local airport and did a Touch & Go.....

    I decided I needed to take the Plane back.... I needed MORE TIME between

    me and that spin....

    Luckily... I had an instructor that taught me how to recover from a spin...

    Some students AREN'T that lucky....


    . Gotta Fly...

    Mike & "Jaz" in MN



    PS NOW.... After a Stall.... When I push on the throttle...

    I leave my hand on it just a LITTLE bit longer before I reach for the Flaps....



    Source(s): Private Pilot , Aircraft Builder & Flyer Now Building Wittman "Buttercup" STOL . .
  • Zander
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    I was once Flying with an airline in the United Kingdom and whilst the meal was being served the fasten seatbelts sign came on, the next thing I knew the TCAS was wailing and we were making a pretty rapid descent.

  • Sam
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    First Solo X-Country flight...Almost put Jet A in the 172.

  • Rob G
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Nothing too spectacular. It was one of my first solo cross countries. I was still a very low time pilot. I looked away for what I thought was only a second. When I looked back, I saw a tail number right in my face. It probably wasn't as close as I remember it but it scared the heck out of me. That taught me to tighten up my visual scan a lot.

    Skipper definitely has the closest one here. You're a stronger man than me. If that 'close call' happened to me, I probably would have hung up my hat and never flew again. If not me, my wife probably would have hung up my hat for me.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Never had any major problem while flying -

    But my "close call" was Lockerbie - Clipper 103 - 21 DEC 1988 -

    I was due to go home (then USA) on Clipper 103 from London -

    But my mother asked me to come visit her for Xmas in Brussels -

    Took a plane to Brussels - and learned about Lockerbie on arrival -

    I would have been riding on 103 on my way back home.

    Saw the crew leaving the hotel - I knew some pilots and flight attendants.

    Hugged Nicole Avonye - French girl - we often flew together.

    Joyeux Noël, she said - It got to be a sad Xmas - Very sad...

    Source(s): Retired airline pilot
  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    Yes, I'm doing it now ^^ But it wasn't because I was totally was more a matter of how much more I could take before I had enough =/

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