Thursday, August 26, 2010

On the Art of Crashing

"If you're faced with a forced landing, fly the thing as far into the crash as possible."
-- R.A. "Bob" Hoover

As recently discussed in this post, my friend Steve Cavallo had occasion in late June to deposit his Cessna 210D behind the boardwalk in Robert Moses State Park on Long Island after a total engine failure. Here is a news photograph of the result:

N3973Y - Photo (c) and courtesy of Fred Miller

To me, that picture speaks volumes about airmanship of the highest order. The airplane is resting in a confined space, at the very end of the available run, gear wisely left up and with a minimum of bent metal. In one of the press reports of the incident, the helicopter-borne reporter takes breathless note of how close the airplane came to the boardwalk and parking lot. This amused me as I was thinking, "Ol' Steve put that bird just exactly where he wanted it."

The quote below is from Steve's contribution to NASA's Oral History Project:

"[NACA Langley] also had [circa 1943] a rocket testing facility at Wallops Island, Virginia that required transportation service. To get to Wallops, we needed to fly a Grumman Goose Amphibian into a creek. The creek was a body of water about 50 meters wide and 2500 meters long which ran parallel to the ocean and was about 150 meters from it. The sand strip between was where the testing facility was located.

I was checked out to fly into the creek and it became pretty much my specialty. I got very proficient at landing and taking off into that small area, in all kinds of wind and current conditions."

The whole interview makes for compelling reading. But for now, I think it's fascinating to note that while Steve was slipping that Grumman amphib into confined waters over 65 years ago, and putting it just exactly where he wanted it, he was building up the experience and airmanship that allowed him to survive a close call and walk away just two months ago.


Eck! said...

Having landed a few Cessna 150s with the fan off I can say Bob Hover and planning are important. But as a reminder, those that fly gliders do it every time. I happen to know that area well from being based at KHWV and 23N.

It's all the difference between crash
and controlled off airport landing. The bottom line is being able to hit your spot and be at the best minimum speed for the conditions. Takes practice, more practice and flying the plane.

Looks to me like if they don't bend it moving it it's in decent shape.
But the engine work is another thing.


Frank Van Haste said...

Dear Eck!:

Roger your last...the engine is toast.

If you knew Mr. Cavallo..."practice, more practice and flying the plane" is what his life has been about. Given the engine-out, there is no pilot I'd rather have in the left seat at that moment.

As to the fate of the 210, it's in the hands of the insurance company.



dbliss said...

I definitely agree with the sentiments.

But something is off about that quote. I've never flown a Goose, but 50m x 2500m is bigger than most air carrier runways!

Frank Van Haste said...

Dear d:

I'll bet you're right -- I just cut & pasted from the original. But it wouldn't surprise me if it was actually "ft"...Steve isn't given to talking in "m"s.

Thanks for reading.


dbliss said...

Yeah, but what's half an order of magnitude between friends?

Thanks for writing! :)

(I showed up on your Clearance Roulette post a while back from a link from Don Brown.)

Frank Van Haste said...

Dear d:

Re: "...from a link from Don Brown."

Cool. Don is one of the Good Guys. "Get the Flick" is a mandatory read for me, every day.

Best wishes,