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First ever forced landing, a mix of stupity and luck . . .

hikouka

Registered User
Japan / New Zealand
Gidday Gidday,

Just thought I'd like to share some thoughts about a fun experience that happened a while back. It's the usual comedy of errors mixed in with a miracle and a lot of gratitude for my Super Cub. Sorry if it turns into a bit of a rant.

You see it all began when a friend said his friend, an old energetic company president of the ra-ra-ra Samurai type, wanted to take his Bonanza and his 172 on a ticker tape tour (not really sure what that means but have always wanted to say it) of Japan's southern island Kyushu. Next thing I knew I was in a 172 with three other low time pilots from his company while 5 others squeezed into the Bonanza, 4 dudes in their seventies and my buddy. Not trusting myself to risk the newly purchased Cub on this long cross country flight she watched us takeoff with a forlorn look in her eye.

Anyway all went well and we flew down the Eastern coast of Kyushu to Japan's space center on the island of Tanegashima. America, you have nothing to fear from Japan's space program, trust me - it was almost pitiful to behold. Anyway next day it was up the western coast of Kyushu to another little island this time west of Nagasaki. On these first two legs I was just a pax but my big day was coming for tomorrow I was going to fly the next leg - a short hop across the sea to refuel in central northern Kyushu at Kumamoto.

Fuel. Yes it all comes down to fuel. You see I was getting more than a little interested in the amount of fuel we had left BUT NO ONE KNEW OR REALLY SEEMED TO CARE. The PinC of the 172 assured me that we could reach Kumamoto. From what I can gather no one over here, or at least NO ONE I've met USES FUEL DIPSTICKS. Fuel remaining is simply meant to be deduced by subtracting the believed rate of consumption times the flight time from the last time the tanks were full. Complicating this further is the fact that MANY JAPANESE AIRPORTS DON'T SELL GAS. Thus we couldn't refuel at the island airfield we were at. Unbelievable huh? Nevertheless I wasn't happy and persisted and upon talking with 'the shacho' (the elderly President dude running the show) we managed to convince the other pilots that just in case we should transfer 40 liters from the Bonanza and put it in the 172 the next morning. That's another thing apparently new to most pilots here NO ONE TRANSFERS FUEL BETWEEN PLANES. So somewhat relived I went to sleep looking forward to flying the next morning. After all what could go wrong flying near Nagasaki on the anniversary of the end of the war which coincidentally falls on their Obon, the Japanese festival of the dead . . .

Too much sake the night before meant we all missed our planned departure time and one of the Shacho's old friends, the only one without a cellphone, managed to get himself lost while souvenir hunting near our inn despite having strict instructions to board the waiting taxi. I was thus charged with hunting him down while the others went to the airport to ready the planes and transfer the fuel, you know the 40 liters like we had agreed on right? Its surprisingly difficult to track down a determined senior citizen in search of fish for his wife but finally he bumped into me while I was looking the other way and it was off to the airport in a hurry. The other dudes had all been waiting for a while and as soon as we got there it was chocks away go,go, go.

Of course I asked had they transferred the fuel and they all said yes. Foolish I DIDN'T CHECK HOW MUCH THEY HAD TRANSFERRED. Instead of 40 liters they only put in 20. Ominous music began to play in the background as the two planes alighted and a foolish grin spread on my face.


About 15 minutes from the airport while over the sea at about 3500 feet the engine decided to prove the immutable law that ENGINES NEED FUEL and turned into a mime. Immediately I knew we were going down and felt glad that I WAS ALREADY WEARING MY PERSONAL LIFE/SURVIVAL VEST while the other pilots started wishing they were wearing theirs, not that they could find them in the jumble that was the a/c interior. So I tell the Captain dude on the right something like'Engines stopped, we're going down, you do the checks I'll fly.' Of course it wasn't until I managed to convince him that I wasn't just playing round that it began to dawn on him the adventure had begun. You could have heard a pin drop but it was probably just his jaw.

Although we were over the sea we made it to the coast and I saw a beautiful little field or two down below. As soon as I saw those I knew we wouldn't be swimming and realized all would be ok. Turning round I was just about to enthuse 'Tenkoku e ikou!' (let's go to heaven!) to cheer up the other pilots but one look at their pale panic stricken faces convinced me that maybe I should just smile reassuring and tell them to check their harnesses.

We landed uneventfully on the field and waited peacefully in the sun for the police, media and medical emergency circus that arrived later on to dance and prance around us. As it was the festival of the dead no one was around you see so we had time to get our stories straight. We all agreed that its best to keep this all a Japanese thing and so explained to one and all that the PinC had done all the flying and that the problem was not a lack of gas but the, ahem, gasculator. When questioned by the police 'do you much about planes' I replied 'They are a mystery aren't they?' The police in their wisdom accepted that and our story, hook, line and spinner. Before the JCAB (Japanese Civil Aviation Authority) reached us to check the plane the crafty white haired Shacho had arrived and secretly put in twenty liters while no one was looking. PITY THAT 20 liters wasn't put in before we forced landed as it should have been .

Things I learnt from the experience (apologies in advance to all those who have been there, done that and know more as the following is really just me trying to arrange in my old mind what I should have done and am now hopefullying doing better):

- don't trust other pilots & listen to your own nagging voice of self preservation. Now I double check not only myself but the work of others I fly with.

- don't be in the air wishing you had done a more thorough preflight & preflight it all slowly on mother earth.

- don't believe published rates of fuel consumption & create your own real world figures. Every flight I now record, analysis and update my Cubs rate of consumption.

- don't takeoff with out measuring the fuel on board & use a dipstick. I created my own fuel dipstick for my standard 150hp, 1989 Super Cub and always use it.

- don't fly without a survival vest & have your vest on and prepared every time you fly. Doing this means you'll at least have an ample supply of yummy vitamin C energy sweets to munch on while you're sitting back enjoying the view.

- don't fly with out a crash helmet & wear your helmet despite the fact that one and all look at you like you've stepped out a comic book. This time we touched down like any of my other landings, and that sure isn't saying much, but had it been just a little different, well I'm not sure my wife would like my face any more scared than it all ready is.

- don't ignore to practice forced landings & always be prepared to go down. Since purchasing the Cub I've been practicing many forced landings and feel that this was a big part of the reason we survived. Often much to the shock of the Japanese controllers I join overhead their airfields at 3,000 and requested a simulated forced landing onto their runways. This always throws them into confusion as NO ONE IN JAPAN SEEMS TO PRACTICE FORCED LANDINGS. I was ready and current. Be ready and current and have fun thrilling the controllers.

- don't think you've got a lot of time & fly the plane down even if you have to forget the checks. Basically I was concentrating full time on getting us down having delegated the checks and radio calls to the PinC. Had my attention been divided I'm not sure I could have found that blessed landing spot and managed to fluke landing into the wind.

- don't get too far from the runway & stay in tight to the landing area. From all the slipping I've been having fun practicing in the Cub I was confident that I could kill any height but with the engine stopped sure as hell I couldn't get it back. Stay in tight and high.

- don't overload the plane & know how much you are carrying. We dropped like a stone so overweight were we. NO ONE HERE DOES W&B CHECKS and boy were we so far over weight that no way am I'm going to admit she was carrying three big guys, one medium guy,four peoples luggage, an anchor of a public address speaking system, all the stuff that normally lives in this 'hangared outside queen', all sorts of misc. crap shoved down in the tail and of course enough fishy souvenirs to keep all our wives satisfied until the next Obon.

- when that stall warning goes off on that last turn from base to short finals and you think maybe you weren't as smart as you thought you were in keeping all that extra altitude when staying tight and high as all that height seems to have disappeared and those trees are looking mighty tall already, don't pull back as the only thing you're going to be pulling is your neck tigher in the noose & push forward so you don't stall and spin. It really shocked the others when I polled forward so the ground appeared to rise and almost smite us (exaggerated for effect) as we made that last turn but I believe that action ended up playing a big part in our happy landing.

- don't admit any more than is necessary to authorities ignorant of aviation & (tongue in check) try to get another pilot to accept full PinC responsibilities and all the fun and games of dealing with the authorities, especially in Asia

- don't think forced landings are scary & enjoy the forced landing as it'll really surprise your pax as they keep glancing from the approaching terra firma to your smile and back again. As strange as this seems I really enjoyed the whole process. Ever since 14 I'd been practicing for this both in planes and while day dreaming at work and throughout the whole experience knew that it was up to me and that this was my 15 minutes of glory, short lived as it was. Trust yourself.

& finally,

- don't forget to believe in miracles & know that somewhere down below a perfect piece of this world is waiting for you to arrive whether or not the props spinning. Just trust yourself and the plane to arrive there together. Oh yes where you ask did we land? After all Japan is either full of beehive cities, miniscule rice paddies or towering mountains right? Well someone was watching out for us and prepared the most perfect of places, a grass research facility which had just harvested their grass a day or two before! Luck of the devil huh?


 
Great story! Thanks for sharing!

I have been there done that, but there was no water involved. Just cornfields.

sj
 
Good story, well told! I have one issue that I would like to emphasize. In real-life emergancies, more pilots overshoot a real deadstick landing than undershoot. The tendency to want to stay high and tight is correct and, of course, you are right in admonishing that "you can't get the altitude back". But don't overdo it! Practice and more practice is the answer. You should also be aware that an aircraft with a windmilling propeller descends more steeply than one with the prop stopped. I think that is prudent to practice this maneuver under all potential loads, wind conditions, etc. And keep in mind what Vince Lombardi once said "Practice doesn't make perfect! Perfect practice makes perfect!"
 
"more pilots overshoot a real deadstick landing than undershoot"

.....and that makes sense to me Ron. I would rather be high and use whatever methods necessary to dump altitude in the last few hundred feet and run off the end of the runway/field at a slow speed rather than be short at approach speed.............or use the spinner/prop as a speed brake :wink: We know that won't work.
 
Hey Ruidoso Ron, Cubdriver doesn't know you too well, you don't have any problem using the prop to stop fast----and not even hurt it!
You're the Best!!
 
Dough Head said:
Hey Ruidoso Ron, Cubdriver doesn't know you too well, you don't have any problem using the prop to stop fast----and not even hurt it!
You're the Best!!

Cubdriver knows me, but I haven't divulged my secret technique to everybody yet! :bang
 
Great story--good analysis and a lot to think about. Being prepared and accepting that something could happen is about 99% of the battle. The rest is divine providence and sheer luck.
 
It seemes most modern instructors teach power on landings. I was taught dead stick. 90% of the time I still do dead stick, the other 10% I was attempting dead stick. Practice, practice , practice. :D :D :D Rick
 
cubdrvr said:
"more pilots overshoot a real deadstick landing than undershoot"

.....and that makes sense to me Ron. I would rather be high and use whatever methods necessary to dump altitude in the last few hundred feet and run off the end of the runway/field at a slow speed rather than be short at approach speed.............or use the spinner/prop as a speed brake :wink: We know that won't work.

This isn't always how it works. A guy I knew was killed when he ran out of gas over the Cascades, and deadsticked into a small clearing. It was too short, or he was too fast &/or too high-- anyway, he ran into an enbankment and it killed him and beat up his son pretty bad. Moral- don't run out of gas. A guy at my airport ran his Lake amphib out of gas & made a forced landing in the salt water not too long after buying it. When we talked about it, I was shocked by his cavalier attitude -"yeah, I knew I was low on fuel and that the gauges didn't work right......". To me, that situation is a no-brainer:land & put more gas in the airplane! I hope I don't read about him in an NTSB report one of these days......

Rooster
 
forced landing

lost my engine 2years ago in a j-3 with a big friend in back, something broke in my carb 50 ft above ground on takeoff,luckily got the nose down before stalling and landed in a beanfield with no damage, it's easier to stall at that attitude than most people realize, other direction of take-off and i would have been in the trees, needless to say i always takeoff over the beans if it's not too bad a tailwind
 
Fool flying?

I know a bloke who had an incident in an Auster, that's a pommie SC. He was asked to ferry the machine for maintaince to a spot half an hour away. He did some test flying (hadn't flown one of those old bombs for ages) to make sure it felt right after 10 years of storage.

The fuel system was a main front and an auxillary rear with a tap on the floor for selection. After 40 minutes test flying in the circuit the pilot worked out it must have been feeding on the front tank, because the indicator (cork float) had gone down about 4 inches. The selector wasn't marked and this fellow was too lazy to pull up the floor and trace the lines back so he assumed it was feeding front. So the front only had about 40 minutes out of 2 hours to it was safe for another 30, "she'll be right".

Off he blasts to enjoy slow, noisy, cramped flying for the next 30 minutes. After cruising about 500agl this fellow decided to go a bit lower, things always look better from treetop height. So after about 25 minutes of cruising at treetop height over heavy timber the engine stops. Use what speed there is to gain a bit of altitude. The prop stops fairly quickly and no electric start on this old jobby, there was a slight clearing of to the right, head there while trying to pull some flap on. The flap lever in an Auster is at the wing root and you have to pull it out then down. Just clearing the fence while steering with his knees still trying to pull that bloody flap lever down, the Auster (could even land slower than a SC) plonks down in the clearing.

Just as our idiot pilot steps out he can see the 182 fly overhead to the place where he's was supposed to be picked up. No signal on the mobile, time for a walk. The nearest place was a mile away and there wasn't anybody home, stroll back to the Auster and try and see what's wrong. The rear tank was now empty and the front tank hadn't gone down at all, maybe the feed was on the back? The front tank going down was only slopping out the cap and with the vibration in the air you couldn't read the tank float.

Time for a look at the takeoff area, there was 120 yards if the machine had it's tail in the low shrubs to the fence , then another 50 yards to some tall poplars, "she'll be right". After turning the selector onto the correct tank this time and pressuring the fuel through, our idiot aviator hand swung (handstarted) the machine and hopped in. Cleared the fence by 10 feet and the poplar trees by the same, off to where he should have been an hour ago.

The story ends Ok but there is a bit to learn from our idiot friend, maybe "she'll be right" won't work all the time. Always know your machine and it's systems.

I have flown the macine since, the only thing that went wrong then was it leaked about 2 quarts of oil out the bottom, I did cruise a bit higher this time though. :(
 
Hey Doughhead,

Believe me, these guys know each other. As a matter of fact, the three of them graduated in the first class of the Tails Up Prop Benders. Cubdrvr was the valedictorian and Dr. Papp was salutatorian. I was in the top ten of that class. The commencement ceremony was held at the Lonesome Doe Ranch in central TX. It was a glorious occasion, with all the Ford pickups and chains and all. We celebrated later with fireworks (of sorts).

As you know, R. Ron has done some post-graduate work since that time and has indeed perfected his technique.

Now if I can just teach them to hand-prop their planes.

murph
 
Murph, you have a way with words. You should give up killing bugs and start writing books :lol:

Tim
 
murph said:
Hey Doughhead,

Believe me, these guys know each other. As a matter of fact, the three of them graduated in the first class of the Tails Up Prop Benders. Cubdrvr was the valedictorian and Dr. Papp was salutatorian. I was in the top ten of that class. The commencement ceremony was held at the Lonesome Doe Ranch in central TX. It was a glorious occasion, with all the Ford pickups and chains and all. We celebrated later with fireworks (of sorts).

As you know, R. Ron has done some post-graduate work since that time and has indeed perfected his technique.

Now if I can just teach them to hand-prop their planes.

murph

Hey Murph,
You just pointed out something to me that was right in front of my face. We've got a group of guys teaching each other some really funky habits! Maybe we should be a little more selective about who we travel with. And to think..........I was thinking that we were really hot stuff when we ended up the Texas trip with only about 25% of the aircraft wrecked! :drinking:
 
Hey SP,

All my landings have been forced. To arrive at that number, I use the formula:

N(TO) X 1 = FL

where

TO = Takeoffs
and
FL = Forced landings.

The 1:1 ratio is considered a constant, except in special situations. :oops:

And you guys thought Jerry Burr knew a lot about flying?

murph
 
Ron,

As stated above, it was a glorious occasion. Or at least we thought it was.

It would seem that some big corporation, like McCaulley, would be seeking us out for endorsements. You know like the Chevy pickup commercials or the Ford Tough stuff. We have acid tested their products. We've been very good customers.

:eek:

murph
 
In fact, maybe Chevy or Ford would have been interested in our actvities. I think we used maybe one of each at Dave's Propeller Shop (Field Division).
 
I'd like to comment on this thread, but I am laughing to hard to type!

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

sj

P.S. I was almost the first casualty on that famous Texas extravaganza, if had not been for new 3" gear and safety cables, I would have been as I stalled it in over the trees and got the shortest landing at the lodge award...
 
Reading between the lines here:

Was a tractor used to extricate a Chevy and/or Ford truck equipped with the optional rear bumper/prop alignment system?
 
This was a true redneck field repair....gets me laughing also. All I will say is that it involved 2 vintage pickups, a tractor (for a deadman), some rope, 2 Texas redneck supervisors and their neighbors ( each with brewski in hand), copius amounts of bystanders, and lots of opinions. You had to be there :eek:
Yeeeeeeeeeehawwwwww.......
 
Gidday Gidday guys,

Glad some of you enjoyed the yarn. No way would I call it a great story though, gosh you guys are flattering - look how many times I had to edit it. Thanks though for the feed back and stories. Practice, practice, practice and learning, learning, learning.

Am still much more concerned about undershooting than overshooting a forced landing. Would much rather be high and have the triple options of; slipping her in, dropping the barn doors down and a balanced curving approach than be at the perfect altitude and then suddenly releasing I'm not going to make it in. One old top dresser I knew who really knew what he was talking about told me once something like, 'if you can survive the first 3 or 4 seconds of the crash you'll be ok.'

After all slipping just feels so darn good. I kind of reckon its just like riding your own elevator down where you have the freedom to choose the floor at which to get off and resume your desired flight path.

Have had a little play in an Auster and, hoping I'm not going to offend our English cousins here, found it to be a bit of a pig especially the flaps, fuel system and the piggy rudder. Thank god for Super Cubs huh!

Finally, of course Redrooster nailed it when he said "Moral - don't run out of gas." All I could add to that would be "or beer"
:drinking:
 
hikouka, thanks for sharing your well written safety brief. Nice job & lessons learned
 
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