How To Crash An Airplane–Doomed From The Start

The pilot of the airplane in this video didn’t visit my website to tell his story, but he’s very lucky to have that opportunity in the future should he choose to do so.

In case you don’t already know it, pilot error is a factor in about 85% of all aircraft mishaps, incidents, and crashes. Note that although we may call it “accident” investigation, that’s a misnomer, at least according to the second definition listed in one of my dictionaries: an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause. In one very real sense, if an event is avoidable, it’s not an accident when it happens.

Throughout my career as a pilot and continuing to this day in sport aviation, inviolate rules apply when taking to the air. At the most basic level, all an aviator has to do is abide by the very first item in the very first set of flying regulations published by the United States Army Air Corps:

No pilot will attempt a takeoff unless he is convinced the machine will fly.

Pretty basic, right? And yet based on the statistic in the second paragraph above, it should come as no shock that crashes do occur when pilots attempt a takeoff that is doomed from the start. Such is the case in the video accessed from the link at the end of this post.

By way of introduction to what you will see, consider the following:

  1. Both piston and jet airplane engines produce horsepower/thrust by combustion, which requires air, a fuel source, and ignition.
  2. Oxygen is the ingredient in air that supports combustion. Cold, sea-level air is dense, which means that the molecules of oxygen are closely packed together with more of them in any given volume. Translation: greater horsepower/thrust from the engine. Warm, high-altitude air found at mountain airports in the summer is less dense and produces the opposite effect. Translation: be careful when attempting a takeoff in high, hot atmospheric conditions.
  3. Any fixed-wing airplane (i.e., not a helicopter or airship) behaves in the air through an interaction of four forces: thrust, drag, weight, and lift. Thrust has to be equal to/greater than drag to maintain/increase speed. Lift has to be equal to/greater than weight to maintain/increase altitude. (From a pure aerodynamic standpoint, an airplane climbs because of excess thrust, not lift, but that explanation is irrelevant to this discussion.)
  4. For any given airplane to takeoff successfully under any given atmospheric conditions, the combination of horsepower/thrust available and lift in excess of that required to maintain level flight must be sufficient to become airborne and climb.Translation: don’t load an airplane up with people, fuel, and bags and try to takeoff from a mountain airport on a hot day without ensuring that the machine will fly!
  5. The video is graphic documentation of a pilot-in-command’s failure to abide by the most basic of aviation rules. Multiple cameras record the flight and crash from within the airplane. All occupants survived, but there are a couple of moments with views of the pilot’s facial injuries.
  6. The video is less than 10 minutes long, but it has a few minutes of dark video immediately after the crash when the camera was running and the occupants weren’t doing a lot of moving about. Then it picks up after they exited the airplane.

Here’s the link and the original description:

This is unprecedented footage of a small airplane crash from inside the cockpit from two different views. Miraculously, everyone survived. The pilot will make a full recovery and the rest of us escaped with superficial injuries and feel very lucky to be alive. This trip was much anticipated and due to our excitement we had our Gopro cameras filming at various times. 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 loose altitude, pushing us down into the trees [italics added]. [Tosh note: the italicized text is hogwash.]

Credit: outdoors to stay

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