Video: He’s Okay! Pilot In Insane Crash Somehow Survives Cartwheel After Balked Landing

Theories about what happened to this small Experimental plane that crashed just off airport are rampant… but the important truth shines through.

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

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.” 

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