Beached

No Castle Today

No Castle Today

When I take off from Santa Monica airport I am very aware that the two most dangerous stages of flight are takeoff and landing, and that I am doing one of them right now. I keep my hand guarding the throttle, mixture and propeller levers so that they can’t slide back. I watch the environment for birds to steer around, keep my airspeed at the optimum number of knots to climb as quickly as possible and I don’t touch anything until I can glide to somewhere if I experience an engine loss. 

It’s a small window that has me worried. Turning back to the landing strip is the temptation. This is known as the impossible turn, and in general it is discouraged. I have some advantages at my home field, because it is a mile long runway and I only use the first fifth of it. There are a few moments where if I lost the engine I could just put it back down on the runway and apply the brakes. Then there is a golf course to the left (a couple planes have crashed there, but none have actually made an emergency landing). A few more moments and I could glide to the beach. That’s when I relax, flip the flaps up, turn off the electric fuel boost pump and pull the RPMs back to 2500 for the climb.

Today I read this article about a forced landing on a beach. That’s exactly what I want to see. If something has gone wrong I no longer care about the airplane (“substantially damaged” is fine with me), I just want everyone on board to walk away. Even with a couple student pilots it looks like that’s possible. (The plane has a different engine than mine. They are still determining if it was the fault of the pilots or if something went wrong with the complex electronics that run the engine.)

Not Even Damp

Not Even Damp

About Colin Summers

I am an architect, programmer, private pilot, husband and father. A couple of those I am good at.
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