This year I give you “unusual cockpit occurrences.” Some have been edited for clarity and length.
Enjoy and happy holidays!
A pilot needs rescuing after “beaching” his aircraft:
“I was eager to explore more landing areas nearer to a good fishing hole. After a few exploratory low passes, I saw what I thought was a suitable landing area. As I set the main wheels down, I held full aft elevator to slow the aircraft.
“When I lost elevator effectiveness, the nosewheel touched down and began to sink in the sand. The aircraft came to a stop with the nosewheel buried in the sand. The propeller struck the sand and stopped the engine.
“My passenger and I were able to free the aircraft and pushed it a few feet toward the sea to more stable soil. I inspected the propeller and it did not appear to be bent. I started the engine and noticed a slight vibration that smoothed out when full power was applied. I decided that I would fly the aircraft home because what little damage there was would not affect the airworthiness of the aircraft.
“My biggest regret from this incident is that I allowed myself to explore and attempt less and less suitable landing areas to the point where I finally damaged a very expensive airplane. Taking off with a damaged engine and prop was also poor judgment.”
A Maule M5 220C pilot gets hooked at a cool picnic spot:
“I was out looking for a picnic area for the family on the river. I found a place and landed. On takeoff, I felt a thump as I rotated and started climbing into the air.
“In the shadow of my plane, I could see something looked strange about my tailwheel. To be safe, I landed at a nearby airstrip due to it being nice and wide and long in case anything happened. On landing, my tailwheel and spring came off and my right main gear collapsed, causing the aircraft to ground loop by hitting the right wingtip and prop.
“I must have hit a rock or something on takeoff, causing my landing gear to malfunction.”
Deck the gear with boughs of holly…
For this pilot, listening to his wife pays off:
“I was on the localizer, a little below the glide slope, about one mile from the touchdown zone. We were in the clouds and my wife was looking out the windows to check for the ground. When she yelled, “Trees!” I gave full throttle, pulled back on the yoke, and heard the noise of treetops scraping on the aircraft.
“The attitude indicator tumbled, and my directional gyro was spinning to the right and taking the aircraft with it.
“I disconnected the autopilot and put in left aileron and kept climbing. I turned on the aircraft’s backup vacuum and used the turn and bank indicator to continue a straight climb.
“Approach told me to keep wings level and continue climbing to 5,000 feet. The attitude indicator and directional gyro began working correctly with the backup.
“I informed Approach that I had hit the treetops. I was vectored to XXX with a fly-by of the tower to check the gear. I taxied to the FBO, and a mechanic removed tree limbs and leaves from the gear.”
A flight leaving late includes an unwelcome stowaway:
“Our flight blocked out nearly two hours late due to severe weather at the airport. We were in an (unidentified) aircraft at a very light takeoff weight, resulting in a very high power to weight ratio. We were cleared to climb and maintain 5,000 feet.
“Takeoff and initial climb were uneventful, but the workload was high. I was coordinating deviation routing with ATC, while the FO was handling a fast-climbing aircraft in turbulence.
“I gave the ‘4,000 for 5,000’ call, and the FO acknowledged. Just then ATC contacted us and simultaneously, a very large moth (approximately 2 inches in diameter) flew out from behind the instrument panel and directly into my face!
“The FO and I got discombobulated. I dropped the hand microphone in my reflex reaction to this moth’s attack on my face.
“I heard the altitude warning system activate. I immediately looked up at the altitude and saw 5,340 feet.
“Without casting blame in this incident with its unusual set of circumstances, it was a stark reminder to all that the flying pilot needs to focus on flying the plane, even under the most bizarre of all possible distractions. We had briefed the weather and the departure procedure, but the sudden appearance of an invading moth flying into the captain’s face was not briefed, and its timing was at a point where even the slightest pause in attention to primary duties almost jeopardized the safety of our flight and other aircraft.”
Hello. Is it me you’re looking for?
A pilot has a strange encounter with a helicopter after flying over her house:
“I was flying my PA18/150 Super Cub from KSGJ to KEVB. On the way, I flew over my house and circled it once or twice.
“I know that flight rules require that I be at 1,000 feet AGL or above. I flew over the house at 1,000 feet, but admittedly may have descended below that altitude during a moment or two of inattention.
“After I left my neighborhood, I flew along the shoreline, just offshore, when I saw a helicopter coming the other way.
“I was still on Unicom frequency for KSGJ when the helicopter contacted and followed me. He asked me what I was doing ‘flying so low’ around 11th Street. He asked me a number of other questions — where I was based, etc. — and apparently called KSGJ later asking about me.
“Frankly, the helicopter ‘escort’ was rather bizarre. I was told by the manager of the FBO that the pilot was not, as he said, with the St. John’s County Sheriff’s Department. He was a Fish and Wildlife officer.”
I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that
A Bell 206 L4 helicopter pilot flies into trouble when his transponder takes on a mind of its own:
“While flying through the Los Angeles Special Flight Rules Area, my KT70 transponder squawked 1-2-0-0 uncommanded. I was in cruise flight and had no part of my body near the push button that defaults to the VFR code.
“This is the third KT70, all with different serial numbers, to squawk 1-2-0-0 uncommanded in a Bell 206 L4 helicopter. It seems there is an airframe or installation issue with this aircraft. I will be the second pilot flying this Bell 206 L4 being investigated for possible violation due to this strange electromechanical defect.
“Flying from a base of operation far removed from headquarters, while flying in special airspace, is challenging enough. Even before the equipment failures, I warned against using this model transponder with a push button to squawk 1-2-0-0. I was ignored repeatedly.
“After this third transponder failure, my company is now doing what I asked for five years ago. We are installing an old transponder without the 1-2-0-0 squawk button.”
A rather testy tester
A CFI candidate has a strange ride with a pilot examiner:
“The CFI flight test examiner was associated with the Tennessee flight school where I trained. He was also one of their instructors. I was warned by the school personnel that he was a “screamer.” This guy terminated my first CFI flight test on the first maneuver when I misunderstood his instructions. I didn’t know his rectangular course had five sides.
“The second CFI flight test was at night, and he literally yelled throughout it, screaming at me to find a reference point for s-turns on a pitch-black highway.
“He screamed when I gave him the correct, published traffic pattern altitude. He claimed I was 100 feet wrong. (He was.) His oral questions were vague. If answered correctly, he claimed he didn’t ask that. I then began to write his questions down, and he still denied that was what he asked. I found his behavior bizarre and dangerous, and especially unprofessional in the cockpit.”
Sometimes a situation is so unusual that the ASRS folks will contact the pilot filing the report to get more information. This pilot acknowledged not reporting the examiner to the FAA for fear of reprisal. The pilot is a retired FAA controller who was starting a second career as a CFI. He did not return to the flight school after the second experience, but instead went to the FAA for his flight check and had no problems.
So, what did we learn?
We learned not to land on a beach or a river bank; to fly the glide slope; to continue flying the airplane even if Mothra attacks; not to talk to strange helicopter pilots; and to stay away from a certain flight school in Tennessee.