Pilots say successful landings are those you can walk away from. John Pedersen proved this Sunday when he successfully landed his damaged airplane on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive.
“OK, you’ve just lost your engine. Where are you going to land?”
It’s the question every student pilot dreads but which every flight instructor asks at some point.
The instructor has just pulled the throttle back to idle, and the student has just seconds to set up an emergency landing – looking for a farmer’s field (land with the furrows, not across them, to reduce the risk of flipping over), a golf course, or a straight stretch of highway with no overpasses and as little traffic as possible.
Gravity rules. The aircraft will glide (or plummet) toward the ground. And assuming there’s no ejection seat or parachute, survival now depends on the pilot’s skills in quieting fear, judging the landscape below, and flying to a successful landing – defined now as one that can be walked away from.
In training, the instructor at some point well above impact throttles up the aircraft engine, then explains what the student did or didn’t do correctly.
(I still sweat remembering my own experience as a student naval aviator in Pensacola, Fla., 40-plus years ago. My instructor, who had otherwise indicated no sadistic tendencies, took control of the T-34 Navy trainer, flew a couple of stomach-churning loops and aileron rolls, leveled out upside-down, pulled the throttle back to idle and said, “You’ve got it. Where are you going to land?” I must have done something right, because a few training flights later he pronounced me “safe for solo.”)
John Pedersen had such an experience early Sunday morning.
He was flying his small Coyote II two-seater at about 2,000 feet over downtown Chicago when an external tail part broke loose, causing the aircraft to shake violently.