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Here Are Our Top 10 Videos of 2020

The year 2020 had lots of bad stuff associated with it, but we were able to share a lot of the excitement, beauty and joy of flying with our audience.

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It’s been a tough year, but it didn’t stop people from flying. Well, not everyone, at least. For those who fly recreationally, the pandemic at first put obstacles in the path to the airport, but after a while, in most places, people figured out that recreational flying solo was a safe outdoor activity. And our audience members shared some of that joy with us, so we could share it with you.

There were also some scary moments, some tragic ones, too, some of which we can all learn from. And more and more, video is the way that we capture our best moments (and occasionally our worst) so we can share them with the world. And Plane & Pilot is proud to be able to help with all of that.

A screencap of the attempted landing captured on video by ABC 7.
A screencap of the attempted landing captured on video by ABC 7.

1. He’s Okay! Pilot In Insane Crash Somehow Survives Cartwheel After Balked Landing

Warning: The video you’re about to see shows a crash that at first looks only marginally survivable. But the pilot did survive, and rescue crews were soon able to free him.

The video begins with the plane touching down hard and out of control on the far end of the runway at Upland Cable Airport in California. After settling, the plane lifts off again, barely clearing the chain-link fence at the airport perimeter and skirting over the top of vehicular traffic on a public road just on the other side of the fence. It then goes out of control and hits a wingtip, cartwheeling and hitting hard, landing against a berm in an empty field a hundred yards or so beyond the airport boundary.

Here’s the happy part. Rescue crews were on the scene within minutes and they were soon able to free the pilot, identified by local news outlets as David Reser, an 80-year-old longtime local pilot. Reser is soon seen walking around talking with those personnel.

The plane, in case you’re wondering (because we were), is a VW-powered Thatcher CX-4, and the pilot, according to a poster who said that he knows the pilot, was on a test flight of the plane when things went wrong.

The pilot told a local media outlet that the plane lost its prop and splattered oil over the windscreen. In attempting to get the plane back on the ground, he landed long before lifting off again.

The pilot said told ABC’s Channel 7 News in Los Angeles that he thought he was a goner, but said he was happy to be alive and planned to fly again, saying that “any landing you can walk away from is a good one.” In this case, no truer words have ever been spoken.

The details make sense, except that the plane is clearly under some power as it lifts off after the rejected semi-crash landing on the runway and takes to the air, so if the plane did indeed lose its prop, as the pilot seemed to believe, it must not have lost all of it, unless you know of some other way for a propeller-driven plane to develop thrust. 

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Regardless, we’re very thankful that he survived to fly again. And we’re in total agreement with a friend of the pilot , Chris Hicks, who defended him online, saying, “Yes, he was fast, but [he] tried to get it on the ground, ended up running out of runway and attempted to ground loop to save him and people around him. Luckily, he flew it into the crash and survived.”

He went on, saying about the pilot, “He is one of the nicest guys on the face of the planet, the type of guy who would give you the shirt off his back…he did a great job with what he had and walked away from the landing with no one seriously injured or killed.” He also said something that we should always say first after an accident like this, in which the pilot not only survived but walked away with no one getting killed or seriously injured: “We are lucky to not be burying our friend tonight.” 

St. Barth's Landing Fail
St. Barth’s Landing Fail

2. That Famous St. Barth’s Landing Fail: Here’s How It Should Have Been Done

One of the most popular aviation videos of all time is the one that shows a Piper Seneca landing at the popular Caribbean resort. Experienced pilots will begin to pucker soon after the twin passes the 1,000-foot aiming point, still very much airborne. And we’ll be in full panic mode by the time he’s just barely down right before the 1,000-feet-to-go mark.

He would have had it nailed had there been about another 700 feet of runway, but there wasn’t. There was beach instead. So the occupants got an unexpected early dose of sand and surf.

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Mistakes made? Clearly, the plane was too fast and too high. Too high is hard to avoid, as the runway is at the base of a very steep hill. Too fast becomes a problem as pilots point the nose down to get down and build up airspeed in doing so. The hoped-for solution adds to the already problematic approach.

The clear answer is to go around. But where to make that decision is the question. The usual rule of thumb is that if you’re not on the ground at normal touchdown speed in the first third of the runway, go around. This one was a no-brainer. And there appeared to be plenty of flying speed left by the time the plane did touch down, so a go-around was still a viable option at that point.

Here’s how to do it right from the pilot’s perspective. It’s not a perfect landing, and the plane does touch down a little long. That said, the plane, a Beech Skipper, doesn’t need much room to stop. And to the pilot’s credit, the stall horn was chirping during the flare.

The last video shows a handful of planes doing it right. First off is an inspirationally great landing by a Twin Otter—yeah, he’s got a reverse gear, so to speak, but still, great work. The last is a workmanlike landing of a PA-28. Not pretty, but still well done.

Oh, and the guy in the Skipper? It was his first landing ever at St. Barth’s. Nice work.

Man flies into hangar
A screencap from a video showing a man flying into a hangar

3. Guy Screws Up Landing, Flies Into Hangar

Warning: While the student pilot flying this Cessna 172 survived the crash without major injuries, this video is alarming. It will not be suitable for some members of the family!

Video has emerged of a student pilot making what is perhaps the worst landing in history in which there wasn’t major loss of life or limb.

There has been much confusion about the details behind this video, but they have come to light.

The accident happened just a few days ago at Toronto’s Buttonville airport. According to Canadian investigators, “a Cessna 172M registered to Canadian Flyers International and being operated by a student pilot (sole occupant), was conducting circuits at the Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport (CYKZ), ON. After the aircraft touched down for landing on Runway 33, it veered to the left. The pilot applied full power in an attempt to get airborne. However, the aircraft subsequently veered to the right, exited the runway surface near Taxiway Bravo 1 (B1) and transitioned across a grass infield area, a taxiway, and then collided with a hangar located on the apron. The aircraft was destroyed and the hangar sustained substantial damage. The student pilot was taken to the hospital for assessment, but received only minor injuries.”

Thank goodness everyone was okay, and hopefully the accident resulted in a renewed understanding of the physics of flight.

 

Pilot flies under the Mackinac Bridge
Pilot flies under the Mackinac Bridge

4. Mystery Pilot Flies Under Mackinac Bridge

A big debate is brewing over a snippet of video that the Coast Guard shot of a small plane flying under Michigan’s famous Mackinac Bridge, and it’s highlighted a real divide between pilots and non-pilots, while highlighting the lack of understanding of the risk aviation poses to earthlings.

For starters, the video is pretty bad. It’s hard for us to tell exactly when the plane crosses under the bridge and at what altitude, though it does look like that does indeed happen.

But instead of leaving it at that, authorities are searching for the pilot at the controls that day. From the Orwellian sounding Defense Visual Information Distribution System, a federal effort to spread visual information to American military personnel and civilians alike, comes this: “In this video shot by the crew of a Coast Guard small boat in the Straits of Mackinac, the pilot of a small private plane flies under the Mackinac Bridge on June 28, 2020. The Michigan State Police and the Coast Guard Investigative Service are seeking information, images, or video from people who may have witnessed the event.”

Is it against the law to fly under a bridge? Probably. The federal regulation FAR 91.119 lays out the berth ones needs to give structures and people, and it’s more than this. The bridge itself is said to have around 200 feet of clearance under it, and that’s not enough. So it’s probably illegal.

And the authorities are apparently dead serious about catching this pilot, which they apparently can’t do on their own because, as previously mentioned, the video is really awful, so no N-number or other defining characteristics are visible.

So they’re reaching out to John and Jane Q. Public to see if they have video of the event, which, if they do, would likely be used to go after the pilot of the bridge ducking pilot. They’d also love it if anyone knew who it was, too.

And sometimes we forget how skewed a sense of the danger small planes are to the world. One commenter said it was a wonder that no one was killed—200 feet? That doesn’t take much precision. It’s a wonder anyone cares.

Yet another poster seemed pretty sure that the pilot and plane were up to no good, likely terrorism or espionage. You can’t make this stuff up.

Helicopter Buzzes Boaters At Trump Parade
Helicopter Buzzes Boaters At Trump Parade

5. Helicopter Buzzes Boaters At Trump Parade

If you’ve heard about the ill-fated boat parade in support of President Trump over the Labor Day weekend, during which several boats sank in the wake of other larger boats—no one was hurt, thank goodness—you might be surprised to learn that it wasn’t the only story that happened on Lake Travis. There was a little helicopter buzzing of those same boats, and some folks are none too happy about it.

In the video, taken by someone on a speedboat, the helicopter, a Robinson R-44, approaches the back of the speeding boat, and gets within 50 feet or so at what appears to be 10-20 feet off the surface before accelerating, veering off and then getting very close over the top of a personal watercraft. At this point, the video ends.

On the Subreddit in which the video was posted, commenters included people who identified themselves as pilots, and several of them claimed to know who the pilot was and that he had done similar things before.

The question of the legality was brought up, and while we wouldn’t go into that subject, the FARs are less than clear on the subject of what’s too close for helicopters, which are exempt to some vague degree from the restrictions placed on fixed-wing aircraft to maintain respectable distances from people and structures.

The FARs also include, however, a catchall reg, 91.13, that prohibits “careless and reckless” operations.

How mad were posters on the forum? Several of them said they were tempted to call the FAA about the matter. And it takes a lot for most pilots to get to that point. What’s your take on it?

Plane takes off from freeway
Plane takes off from freeway

6. Plane Runs Out Of Avgas, Lands On Freeway, Gets Gas, Takes Off Again

Running out of a gas in a small plane, well, any plane, is never a good idea, but in this case, the guy kind of got away with it, at least as far as nobody getting hurt and no metal getting bent. Somebody’s certificate might get a little bent, but that’s a different story. The plane landed on a freeway and somehow managed to not hit anybody—the key seems to be landing with the flow of traffic!

The takeoff here was accomplished after the police blocked off a section of freeway for the takeoff, and the guy did a good job of waiting until he was past the overpass to rotate! Check it out.

Cessna 195 Trailer Takeoff

7. How Scary Is This Cessna 195 Trailer Takeoff!

The process of moving a plane back and forth from wheels to straight (non-amphibious) floats is, by definition, a bit complex. The best place to put those floats on is often the shop at a landlocked airport, but once it’s on floats, how to get it back to the water?

One time-tested way is to take off from a trailer towed by a speeding vehicle, which is just what this Cessna 195 is doing. (Thanks to 195 owner Paul Rasmussen for sharing these videos!)

Another video here shows a Cessna 185 going airborne off of a trailer, and thanks to David Hewitt for that one!

How you do that is kind of how you might imagine. As the tow vehicle accelerates, the pilot needs to smoothly increase thrust so that the engine is at full power at takeoff speed. In this case, Paul said that was around 60 knots. As you’re accelerating while under tow, however, you need to hold forward pressure, because, number one, you don’t want to partially take off only to learn too late you needed more airspeed, which could be disastrous, and, two, you want to be able to smartly climb above the tow vehicle.

To answer the number-one follow-up question: No! It’s not done in the opposite direction. No one tries to land back on a speeding trailer!

Some folks do land on the grass with their floats—the longer and wetter the grass, the better. Check out this video of a Cessna floatplane landing on the grass at the end of float season. And some airplane owners do take off again from the grass, though that isn’t as common.

And if trailer takeoffs sound risky to you, well, some float pilots think so, too. But there are others who fly off the trailer in the spring and land back on the grass before winter comes. We’ve heard stories of disastrous cartwheel, botched trailer takeoffs with wings sheared off and the like, and there’s a lot that could go wrong. Others point out, however, that there’s a lot that can go wrong flying floats on and off the water, too.

And then there are those folks who just leave their planes on floats all year long, which avoids the issue altogether, though it also deprives them of trailer takeoff time, which even with some additional risk, looks like a blast.

A man hand props a cub midflight.

8. Guy Hand Props Cub In Midflight

We post this video reluctantly, and in part only to show what not to do as a pilot, though this one kind of goes without saying, at least we hope so!

In it, a front-seat passenger in the 1946 J-3 Cub unbuckles and proceeds to reach out of the Cub’s open side door and hand-prop the stopped engine, a 65 hp Continental. He’s tethered by his belt to something inside the plane, though if he weighs 170 pounds (let’s say) and if he falls a few feet, the dynamic load would be in the area of 300 pounds if it’s a static rope and somewhat less if it’s a dynamic (stretchy) rope, like rock climbers use. The belt’s strength? We’re guessing less than that, but it’d be close. And there appears to be no other safety backup. Creating the video was a monumentally bad idea, because a fall from what appears to be more than a thousand feet wouldn’t turn out happily. The hand-propping risk isn’t zero either. Then if one wants to get into the potential FAA fallout…we’ll let you use your imagination on that one.

A King Air gear collapses in video.

9. King Air Gear Collapses On Landing!

Check out this video of this Beechcraft King Air, said to be a U.S. Government plane, as its gear collapses on landing.

Rescue crews were at the ready, so it was clearly a problem the pilot and tower controllers were communicating about before the landing, which was executed very smoothly, though gravity won out in the end.

After the plane goes onto its belly, watch it slide. At that point, the pilot probably had no more aerodynamic or braking control of the plane, but luckily, it stayed upright. While we don’t know for sure, we’d be shocked if anyone aboard was injured.

On the subject of whether the plane will fly again or not, we’re voting that it will. One experienced King Air mechanic said he had worked on planes with similar damage, and while repairing them wasn’t quick or cheap, the damage could be fixed. The only question is, would it be cheaper to buy another King Air?

A screenshot from a video of a stranded Cessna 150.
A screenshot from a video of a stranded Cessna 150.

10. Stranded Cessna 150 Tries To Take Off From A Sandbar. No Possible Way He Makes It.

Before you read a word of this or the newspaper story we found this in, please watch the video, which shows a Cessna 150 trapped on a sandbar with the rising tide as the pilot attempts to take off from said sandbar, on which he was forced to land after running out of gas. He’ll never make it. There’s no way he’ll ever make it. Oh the humanity!

Three things we like. We learn that the 150 got its gas delivered by a helicopter, owned by a friend who was happy to do the favor. And, the pilot of the 150 seems blissfully unconcerned about having run out of fuel. And he seems like such a nice guy! How is that all possible!

Enjoy it here!

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