22 May 2015

Cal Rodgers and the first fatal birdstrike

Bird strikes are loosely defined as a collision between an airborne animal and a human-made vehicle. The animal in question is usually a bird but can also be a bat (and in one bizarre incident, a fish). Annual damages caused by bird strikes are estimated at US$1.2 billion for commercial aircraft worldwide.

Initial aviators had no idea that birds would become such a danger to aircraft. Wilbur Wright observed birds in order to design a control system when he first became interested in mechanical aeronautical experiments. He noticed that birds changed the angle of the ends of their wings to make their bodies roll right or left. Wilbur concluded that their flying machine should bank or lean into the turn just like a bird and that this would also enable recovery in gusty winds. This was a major breakthrough for aviation, where the idea of deliberately leaning or rolling seemed undesirable, if they thought about it at all.

Meanwhile, Orville goes down in history as the first known bird strike to a powered aircraft. It was the 7th of September in 1908. According to the Wright Brother’s diaries, Orville flew 4,751 metres (15,587 feet) in four minutes and 45 seconds as four complete circles. He passed over the fence in Beard’s cornfield twice and then chased a flock of birds for two rounds. He killed one, which landed on the flying machine but fell off when Orville was swinging a sharp curve.

The first bird strike fatal to humans was four years later, in 1912 at Long Beach, California, killing the pilot.

The Wright Brothers set up a commercial aviation business called the Wright Company in Dayton, Ohio at the end of 1909. The Wright Company had no interest in innovation. believing there was more money to be made in obtaining royalties from competing manufacturers or patent infringers.

John Rodgers was a Navy man who studied flying at the Wright Company in 1911 and became the second American naval officer to fly for the United States Army.

Calbraith Perry Rodgers

John’s cousin Calbraith Perry Rodgers went to visit John at the flying school in March 1911. Cal was immediately fascinated and signed up for flying lessons himself. He received an hour and a half of flying lesson from Orville Wright and on the 7th of August that same year, he passed his official flying examination at Huffman Prairie Flying Field, the same airfield where the Wright brothers had tested their aircraft since 1904.

The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale was founded at a conference in Paris in October, 1905 as an association to regulate the sport of flying.

FAI History

From its inception, the FAI defined its principal aims as being to”methodically catalogue the best performances achieved, so that they be known to everybody; to identify their distinguishing features so as to permit comparisons to be made; and to verify evidence and thus ensure that record-holders have undisputed claims to their titles.” The statutes also specified that each body holding sporting powers (i.e. the national members of FAI) should retain full and autonomous control over its own affairs.

It is now is the world governing body for air sports, aeronautics and astronautics world records.

In 1911, Cal Rodgers was the 49th aviator licensed to fly by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

He bought a new Flier, the first Wright machine ever sold to a private buyer, and set off to cross the United States in it. William Randolph Hearst offered a $50,000 reward to the first pilot to fly cross-country across the US in 30 days or less and with his new plane and 90 minutes flying instruction, Cal was up for the challenge.

Cal also created the precursor to banner advertising, arranging with a Chicago businessman, J. Ogden Armour, to sponsor the flight. In return for Armour’s sponsorship, Cal named the aircraft Vin Fiz, after Armour’s new soft drink, and spelled it out on the rudders and the undersides of the wings.

Cal Rodgers’ “Vin Fiz” Flyer (a Wright Model EX biplane) takes off from Sheepshead Bay on September 17, 1911 at the start of the first transcontinental flight across the U.S.

He had his first run in with birds on the second day of his cross country flight, when he clipped a tree with a wheel and crashed into a chicken shed. The flight was beset with difficulties and landed 75 times en route, 16 of which were crashes. The Wright brothers mechanic, Charlie Taylor, followed behind by train and repaired the aircraft so many times, almost none of the original build remained by the time they arrived in California.

Cal Rodgers completed the first transcontinental flight across the US but did not make it within the 30 days required to collect the Hearst reward. Nevertheless, he was cheered as a hero when he landed on the beach after travelling 6,400 kilometres (4,000 miles) from coast to coast. The actual flying time was just under 84 hours.

The following year, Cal was still in California and spent a week doing daily flights at Long Beach. He often took passengers with him. One of those flights went terribly wrong.

Daily Times; Chattanooga, Tennessee; April 4, 1912

Today he started from his usual place and soared out over the ocean, crossing the pier, and then returning, dipped close to a roller coaster in a beach amusement park. “Seeing a flock of gulls disporting themselves among a great shoal of sardines, just over the breakers, Rodgers again turned and dived down into the, scattering the seafowl in all directions. “Highly elated with the outcome of his dive, Rodgers then flew farther out to sea, all the time gradually rising until he had reached a height of about 200 feet. Making a short steep turn, he started at full speed for a pier, then suddenly dipped his planes and his machine began a frightful (rapid?) descent. Rodgers was seen by hundreds of persons on the pier to relax his hold on the levers and then, seemingly realizing that he was in danger, he made strenuous efforts to pull the nose of his machine into a level position.

When he’d flown into the flock of birds, he struck a gull. It jammed the rudder control, which he was unable to clear. The aircraft crashed into the surf just a few hundred feet where he’d finished his transcontinental flight with Vin Fiz.

Two lifeguards were the first to the scene and found Cal hanging over the wing. They lifted him to carry him to the hospital but he died on the way there. Later examination showed that his neck, jawbone and back were broken.

Cal Rodgers was the 127th aeroplane fatality since aviation had begun and the 22nd American aviator to be killed. He was just 33.

15 May 2015

ATC Humour

I may have spent too much time reading silly threads on the Professional Pilots Rumour Network (PPRuNe). Specifically, there’s a great thread of ATC Humour with a great mix of classic jokes and personal stories. It’s eighty pages long! However, I read the whole thing so that you don’t have to. You’re welcome!

My sense of humour is sometimes very questionable. Also, some of these are very English, and I’ll leave it to the readers to explain those in the comments.

With that proviso, I bring you the best of PPRuNe ATC humour (some edits included to protect the innocent)!

Pilot: I think I suffered a birdstrike. Did you see where it hit?

Controller: Just below the beak but I think it’s all right.

Private Pilot: I need a little help as I am not sure of my position
ATC: Roger. Set 1234 on your transponder
Private Pilot: OK

—long pause–

ATC: I don’t see you in any of my sectors. Where was the last place you were sure of your position?

Private Pilot: Holding short runway 34

Confused British Airways pilot in Thailand: Bangbird, this is Speedcock….

ATC: Clipper 123, what’s the turbulence like at your level?
Clipper 123: Well …how shall I put it? The Captain’s just stuck his fork up his nose.
ATC: TWA 789, what’s the turbulence like at your level?
TWA 789: I don’t know, we haven’t eaten yet.

A cargo plane was flying the same route night after night and after while went in with approach of destination airport (around dusk) with the same joke.

Flight 123: Tower, guess who’s coming?

Each time the tower asked him to identify himself clearly on the frequency instead of joking, never succeeded…until that day in winter:

Flight 123: Tower, guess who’s coming?
Tower controller: (turning off the runway lights) Flight 123, guess where we are now…

From that day, the story says that this cargo pilot always identified when contacting the tower.

A University Air Squadron Bulldog holding for the grass runway:

Charlie 01: Tower, Charlie 01, we have a large flock of plovers by the threshold
Tower: Charlie 01, say again?
Charlie 01: We have a large flock of plovers by the threshold
Tower: A large flock of what?
Charlie 01: *sigh* Birds.

Aeroflot routing to Ireland and then on to Cuba at time of tension…

ATCO: Aeroflot 123, do you carry transponder?
Aeroflot: Negative sir, we only carry agricultural equipment

In the days that the Red Devils used to parachute over Queens Parade and work TMA south for entry into controlled airspace, a Qantas jumbo on a Southhampton departure on a sunny day made an anxious report.

Qantas: Hey, London, there’s an aircraft on our left hand side and there’s people falling out of it.
Controller: Is it a red islander?
Qantas: Blimey, that’s good radar!

There are two approaches into airfields near Boston; here are the waypoints:


Trainee controller: Cessna 172 calling, say again your callsign and type of aircraft.

Approx 4:00 AM one morning

India X-ray Charlie India X-ray Charlie request.
Brisbane: Go ahead.
India X-ray Charlie Roger, I seem to have left my flight plan in the fax machine at home. Don’t suppose you could give me my flight details.

(After a minute’s pause)

Brisbane: (laughing) India X-ray Charlie we can do that for you. You have departed Weipa.

(Another pause )

India X-ray Charlie: Ahh…roger, I kinda know that much.
Brisbane: (still laughing) You are off to Cairns.

(Another pause)

India X-ray Charlie: You guys are going to drag this out for a while just to embarrass me, aren’t you.

This went on for a while, eventually the rest of the details were also given.

Two J41 aircraft inbound to the field, the first aircraft established inbound on the ILS, second aircraft reports visual with the field requesting a visual approach.

ATC: Are you visual with the company Jetstream in your 1 o’clock, range 6 miles?
J41: Negative. Are you sure you mean in my 1 o’clock?
ATC: Try looking to the right of your 12 o’clock.
J41: Visual.

O’Hare Approach Control: United 329 heavy, your traffic is a Fokker, one o’clock, three miles, eastbound.

United 239: Approach, I’ve always wanted to say this… I’ve got the little Fokker in sight.

Detroit Radio: Number aboard?
N1234: Two
Detroit Radio: Color?
N1234: Uh…white males.

The other day at Hamilton, New Zealand (NZHN 122.9MHz) there was a female trainee controller on the frequency (every now and then you could hear her OJTI (instructor) talking in the background).

The controller had a C206 transitting the Control Zone to the south (ZK-EJE) and a 152 (ZK-EJZ – similar callsign) taxiing on the ground. Needing to check the position of the C206 (ZK-EJE) before clearing a southbound Saab 340 for takeoff the following was heard:

Trainee ATCO: Echo Juliet Zulu, report level and position
ZK-EJZ (a particularly quick thinking instructor): 172feet (aerodrome elevation) at Holding Point Charlie
Trainee ATCO: Uh…Roger? [sounds of raucous laughter from the instructor in the background]

For the next few minutes every time the trainee spoke you could hear the instructor wetting himself in the background.

London Air Traffic Control Centre controller was asked some time before to accept a pair of Blackburn Buccaneers.

Civilian LATCC controller: Where are my Buccaneers?
LATCC Military controller: Under your Buccan headset!

A couple of years ago, a A300 ST Beluga checking in :

Beluga: Hello Bordeaux, this is Super Transporter F-AD, with you FL330.
Bordeaux: Super Transporter AD, bonjour. This is Super Controller speaking!

Flight SWR 101 was normally a B747 inbound to Zurich from JFK. ACC called the approach controller and told them that flight SWR 101 was coming in with only 3 engines today. In fact, it was an MD-11 that day, a three-engine wide-body jet.

The Approach Controller immediately notified the fire brigade and everything was prepared for a one engine out landing with a 747. The pilots didn’t notice when the approach controller told them that the fire brigade was ready, and the fire brigade was pretty upset when they saw an MD-11 on final approach.

A DC-10 had an exceedingly long roll out after landing with his approach speed a little high.

San Jose Tower: American 751 heavy, turn right at the end of the runway, if able. If not able, take the Guadalupe exit off Highway 101, make a right at the lights and return to the airport.

On the airline frequency:

Flight crew: None of our toilets are working. Can we have permission to give the passengers complimentary drinks?

A Dan Air flight is running late into Aberdeen and he eventually changes from Scottish to Aberdeen Approach.

A/C: Aberdeen, good day. It’s the f*****g Dan Air 123.

An uncomfortable pause lasts for a few moments and the controller eventually responds as he would normally would. However despite the controller using the correct call-sign the pilot operating the R/T still persisted in saying ‘F*****g Dan Air 123′.

The flight was handed over to the tower frequency and the pilot continued to use this ‘modified’ callsign. The tower controller was just as surprised as their colleague was on approach but nevertheless the pilot continued to use the modified callsign right until the aircraft taxied onto stand.

When the aircraft pulled onto stand the pilot called tower and suggested that they should listen to the current ATIS.

The ATIS was recorded as normal however in the background you could hear a certain Approach controller shout out ‘Where is that F******g Dan Air’.

Cockpit: The first officer says he’s got the runway in sight.
ATC: Roger, the first officer’s cleared for a visual approach runway 27…You continue on that 180 heading and descend to three thousand.

Your story is almost true but here is the official version. I know as I was that controller. The Blackbird was competing in a race from overhead New York to overhead London and I was briefed to ‘clock’ it in as it passed overhead London. (I was a military ATCO covering the London overhead at the time – 1972) The Blackbird was out of primary radar cover so I was tracking it on SSR. As it passed over London heading East I gave it a left turn for Mildenhall and then watched aghast as it commenced it’s very very wide turn and disappeared towards Holland descending through a very high Mode C readout. Being a smart ATCO I instructed the pilot to ‘strangle his parrot’ and report when steady heading 270. When he did I asked him to report his altitude and then told him to continue. After a bit of dead reckoning I instructed him to squawk my code and picked him up over the North Sea about 30 miles east of Gt Yarmouth at about FL 330 descending !! God knows how far he had penetrated German airspace but with no SSR and probably above their primary cover maybe I had got away with it. There is one other ATCO who knows the story but you won’t tell will you Pete ?

Radar controller in a sticky situation: two a/c, parallel vectored but on the wrong sides. No chance of a vertical solution or a ‘make a 360′ solution due to traffic behind.

ATC: a/c 1, do you see the a/c on your right?
a/c1: Affirm
ATC: a/c 2, do you see the a/c on your left?
a/c2: Affirm
ATC: You guys able to maintain VFR for the next 1 min?
a/c1: Affirm
a/c2: Affirm
ATC: OK, now swap!

The amazing thing was that they actually did!

Tower: Eastern 702, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on 124.7

Eastern 702: Tower, Eastern 702 switching to Departure. By the way, after we lifted off we saw some kind of dead animal on the far end of the runway.

Tower: Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on 124.7.Did you copy that report from Eastern 702?

Continental 635: Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, roger; and yes, we copied Eastern and we’ve already notified our caterers…

Aircraft taxying to terminal after landing 04 used to pass quite close to the tower. One old time pilot whose voice we all knew used to flip us the finger as he said g’day on his way past (I think it might have actually been two fingers in those days). Of course we all knew the routine and gave a mass showing of fingers thrusting skyward.

It was only later we found that he had just made a PA announcement: “If those passengers on the left hand side of the aircraft look out the window now, they’ll see the friendly boys in the tower hard at work…”

Back in the early 1960s Gloster Gladiator G-AMRK was going from A to B when the engine quit (I think it was somewhere near Bedford). He put out a Mayday and asked to be pointed at the nearest airfield.

ATC: What type of aircraft are you?
Pilot: Gloster Gladiator.
ATC: This is really not the time to be funny.
Pilot: If you were stuck up here in the last flyable Gloster Gladiator in the world without an engine I doubt you would find it at all funny!

They got him down.

ATC: Aeroflot XXX proceed direct VUT.

Aeroflot: Ummm… say again?

ATC: Aeroflot, present position direct Victor Uniform Tango.

Aeroflot: Roger, proceeding direct WHISKY UNIFORM TANGO.

ATC: NEGATIVE! It’s VODKA Uniform Tango!

An AA 757 is coming out of the AA terminal cul-de-sac at high speed, checking in on the TWR frequency. Controller asks: “Why the hurry?” and the reply, although a bit garbled, sounds exactly like “I have a dangerous cargo”.

“Okay,” thinks our hero, “better give this guy priority in the departure sequence.” This is done and furthermore a message about this particular flight having a dangerous cargo is passed along down the line thru the ATC system.

The flight reaches O’Hare airport in record time.

Tower: AAxxx, would you need any special assistance when parking?
American Airlines pilot: Errr, no. Why d’ya ask? (sounding quite baffled)
Tower: Well, understand that you told JFK TWR that you had a dangerous cargo…
American Airlines pilot: Nonono! I said I have a date in Chicago!

Experienced some months ago while approaching to land a helicopter at a busy English airfield…

TOWER: PA28 G-XXXX cleared to land 04 Hard.
G-XXXX: Cleared to land 04 Hard G-XXXX.
TOWER: Helicopter G-YYYY cleared to land 04 Grass and watch for inbound PA28 on finals.
ME: Clear land 04 Grass – looking.
TOWER: He’s behind you.
SOME WAG ON FREQUENCY: Oh no he’s not…

I was laughing so hard I couldn’t hover.

Early morning at Frankfurt:

Speedbird 123: Request taxi.
Tower: Negative Speedbird 123, hold position.
Lufthansa 456: Request taxi.
Tower: Clear taxi, Lufthansa 456.
Speedbird 123: Request taxi.
Tower: Negative 123, hold position.
Lufthansa 789: Request taxi.
Tower: Clear taxi, Lufthansa 789
Speedbird 123: Why are we still holding?
Lufthansa 789: German pilots get up early and put their towels on the end of the runway.

Air Force One (B707/C-137) was visiting UK back in the 1960s. Crusty old Colonel captain decides to visit a few RAF airfields to do some crew training. These were the days before secondary radar.

Air Force One: Air Force One checking in and requesting a precision approach radar.
RAF: Roger Air Force One, can I have your present position, heading and height?
Air Force One: Look buddy, you’ve got the goddamn radar, you find us!

After a couple of identification turns Air Force One is now on dog leg to finals.

RAF: Air Force One you are now on dog leg to finals, just confirm your aircraft is multi-channel VHF equipped?
Air Force One: Affirmative
RAF:Right then old boy, you find the Final Controller!

Two jets were leaving on the same heading: BE200 at FL 70 and A340 at FL 80 about 4 miles behind but going much faster. As the Airbus caught up to the King Air and the returns on the radar merged, a meek little voice was heard.

“It’s gone awful dark…….”

A PAN AM 747 suffers an engine failure on rotation at LHR:

PILOT: Err ah Clipper 123, we are going to continue straight ahead runway heading and dump some gas.
CONTROLLER: Are you aware, sir, that your current heading takes you over Windsor Castle where her Majesty is currently in residence?
PILOT: (quick as a flash) Ask her majesty, does she just want the gas or the airplane and the gas?

A colleague heard the following recently on the way into Schiphol.

AMS Controller: Continental give me a good rate please through FL100?
Continental: Well sir, we are doing 2000 feet per minute.
AMS Controller: Could you make it 3000 feet per minute?
Continental : No sir.
AMS Controller: Oh, do you not have a speedbrake?
Continental: Yes sir, I do, but that is for MY mistakes, not for yours!

RADAR: November 12345, VFR traffic on your 12 o’clock, range two miles.
A/C: No, the traffic is actually a flock of Canada Geese!
RADAR: Well, the geese are squawking 1200.

A Tucano is a two-seater turboprop trainer. On a London north bank sector many moons ago, one of the first Tucanos was trundling around on airways when the pilot advised that an immediate diversion was required because of engine trouble.

Trainee controller not quite conversant with aircraft type: State persons on board and which engine is giving trouble.

Arguably one of the greatest responses came back:

“Me and it.”

Know any more? Leave ’em in the comments!

08 May 2015

Stinson Defies Gravity… Just

This video is from a few years back but it is new to me:

The aircraft is gorgeous, although it’s not a 105. The Canadian registration is for a Stinson 108-3 Voyager built in 1948.

The pilot that day reportedly commented on the video in a post in one of the Stinson forums.

Oh dear… Have to ‘fess up. Things do come back to haunt one, don’t they? This was me, Selina, in GYYF. Of course I have already received this video a few times in the last couple of days. I think it was 1999 or 2000.

What can I say? It was hot, I had 2 passengers and thought I knew more than I did about short field takeoffs. This little field is just outside of Victoria B.C. and once we were in the air we headed straight to Nanaimo’s LONG runway to land and assess damages. The only victims, other than my pride, were the gear fairings as I did a bit of landscaping on the way out.

The airfield was Quamichan Lake (Raven Field) Airport on Vancouver Island. The grass runway there runs almost north-south and is 549 metres (1,800 feet). It’s 130 feet above sea level.

What was I thinking? I sure didn’t use correct short field procedures and quickly ran out of room. I knew I was in trouble and also knew I was committed to the takeoff. As we lifted off my right seat passenger, a more experienced pilot (as was the second passenger in the back), was quick enough to yell at me to push the nose down and was ready to do so himself if I didn’t. That instinct to pull up is strong especially with the tops of the trees coming at you.

Just about the best learning experience I’ve every had… And probably the scariest.

Definitely one hell of a learning experience!

It seems likely that she posted it although her name might have been added later. Certainly, she’s the owner of the Stinson. I love that she’s not tried to make excuses but explains exactly what happened.

Selina Smith on LadiesLoveTaildraggers.com

Here’s a normal take-off from the same airfield:

Apparently she never went back.

Coincidentally I met the owner of this little field this past weekend at a fly-in and we had a little reminisce about my “incident”. The field is still in use although I think they have removed a few more of the trees at the end. I don’t think I’ll be tackling it again although a little voice inside says perhaps I should go back without passengers and do it properly!

If she does, I hope someone videos it for comparison!

01 May 2015

Pilot texts before crash : “It’s going down”

The pilot was a 60-year-old male with a commercial pilot’s licence and just over 3,000 hours flying time. He’d held a UK PPL since 1982 and had recently done aerobatic training in a Cessna 150. He’d owned a Cessna Citation (jet) as well as a variety of single and twin aircraft.

The aircraft was a Piper PA-38-112 Tomahawk, a two-seater, all metal aircraft. Tomahawks were designed for flight instruction but are also popular as a touring aircraft.

Part of the design brief was to build in realistic spin recovery behaviour by requiring specific pilot input to recover from a spin. A spin may be entered unintentionally or intentionally, as an outcome of unbalanced flight close to the aerodynamic stall. The PA-38 is cleared for intentional spins provided that a full four-point shoulder harness is fitted and the flaps are fully retracted. A series of flight tests were carried out October 1979 by NASA Langley Research Center, to evaluate PA-38 Tomahawk spin behaviour and recovery. From these tests, the average rate of descent was calculated to be of the order of 5,000 ft/min to 6,000 ft/min.

The pilot leased the aircraft for a three-month period starting in early June. The aircraft was given a 50-hour inspection on 4 June before being handed over to the pilot two days later. The lease allowed the pilot to use the aircraft for 50 flight hours or three months, whichever occurred first. There would only have been a few weeks left on the lease.

He kept the aircraft at Elstree Aerodrome and flew it regularly on local flights. He flew to other local airfields, sometimes flying around the area before landing. He’d flown approximately 20 hours in the aircraft to airfields and helicopter landing sites in the south-east of England, with an average distance of about 60 nautical miles. He had an iPad mini which he used to track his flights. That morning, there were 32 other recorded flights which tracked his GPS movements from initial taxi to parking.

On Wednesday, the 20th of August, he arrived at Elstree early. The weather was good and the skies were clear, a perfect day for flying. He departed the airfield at 09:33 and flew to Turweston Aerodrome. He landed at 11:26 after flying circling manoeuvres just to the south of Buckingham. He sent one SMS during this time, which wasn’t related to the flight. He tracked the flight on his iPad mini and stopped tracking after the aircraft had landed.

He spent half an hour on the ground at Turweston, where he spoke to acquaintances and refuelled the aircraft with 40 litres (10.5 US gallons) of Avgas. He was described as chatty, friendly and relaxed. He departed 11:56 and landed at White Waltham at 13:00, again tracking the full flight until after landing.

He spent some time at White Waltham and then booked out for a flight to Elstree. So far it had been a normal flying day that matched his others.

However, then it got odd. He filled in the booking sheet to confirm that he was departing at 17:00. But five minutes before he was due to leave, he phoned Elstree Tower and told them that he would not be returning that day. He didn’t mention a new destination to anyone at White Waltham and he did not update his booking sheet.

He went to the aircraft where he discovered that the battery was flat, because he’d left the Master switch on. He spoke to the airport office and personnel from one of the maintenance organisations at White Waltham came out with a battery booster starting aid. They told the pilot that typically after an hour of flight time, the battery would be fine.

It was 17:08 when he took off from White Waltham and headed north. He tried to make a phone call but wasn’t able to get a network connection. A few minutes later he reached 2,200 feet and made several phone calls, each lasting about two minutes.

He was south of Buckingham when he climbed to 2,800 feet started flying in approximate circular patterns with a 2-3 nautical mile radius, similar to the flights he’d done that morning. He phoned the same person he’d spoken to earlier in the flight and the phone call lasted for about 90 seconds. The pilot then made a series of phone calls to another person which were only connected briefly before the calls ended, which was likely connectivity problems. The Class A airspace above him started at 5,500 feet and he remained clear of it, flying patterns between 2,500 feet and 4,700 feet for almost an hour.

At 18:22:54, the track logging on his iPad ended.

At 18:31, he attempted to call a relative but the call didn’t connect. Twenty-five seconds later, he sent a text message to the same relative.

…I’m in a plane out of control and it’s going down…

The full message was 148 characters and the aircraft at that time was about 1.8 nautical miles north of the crash site. At the time of the message, the aircraft’s groundspeed was approximately 64 knots and it gradually turned to the left over the next 49 seconds.

Two minutes later, he contacted Farnborough Radar North frequence with a MAYDAY call

MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY. Golf Bravo November Delta Echo er lost control of the aircraft and it’s gone into a spin.

The transmission lasted about 8 seconds. The controller responded asking the pilot to set 7700 on the transponder. The pilot confirmed his approximate position before saying “I can’t control it” at 18:34:07. That was his last transmission.

Witnesses near Padbury saw the aircraft enter a descending spiral from what appeared to be normal flight. Others first noticed it when it was already fast descending in a spin or spiral. Several witnesses heard the engine running.

The aircraft impacted the ground at Hedges Farm.

When emergency services arrived, the aircraft was upright on a grassy area at the edge of a field and the smell of Avgas was in the air. The tail was lying against a hedge. The wreckage showed that the aircraft struck the ground in a left spin at a high vertical descent rate.

There was a “sputtering” noise coming from the aircraft which ceased after a member of the fire crew turned off switches. The fuel tanks were punctured on impact and the fuel drained into the ground beneath the engine. The fuel selector was set to halfway between OFF and LEFT.

Cause of the death was the injuries sustained in the impact.

There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol. He did not show signs of any disease which could have caused his death or contributed to his losing control of the aircraft.

It was obvious that the aircraft had entered a spin from which it never recovered. The investigators focused on weather, training issues or mechanical defect which could have caused or been a contributing factor to the spin. The weather was clear and the pilot was in visual conditions throughout. The pilot was experienced and had taken lessons in aerobatics, which would have included spin awareness and recovery. It seems likely that he would have been able to recover from a spin which, based on the final radio transmissions and the calculated rate of descent, started from at least 2,500 feet and probably higher.

There was no evidence of engine failure at all, other than that the propeller showed little evidence of power at impact. The primarly flying controls showed no evidence of a pre-impact disconnect. The fuel selector setting may have been moved by the fire crew member who turned off switches but investigators felt it was more likely that the pilot had attempted to turn off the fuel. The “sputtering” noise was likely the gyroscope or the electric fuel boost pump, which means the battery held a reasonable charge at the point of impact. They were unable to find any mechanical defect that could have been a factor.

There was no sound of the stall warner during the MAYDAY call, although in test conditions, the horn would sound intermittently while the aircraft was spinning.

There were two mobile phones and the iPad in the aircraft. The final flight was recorded on the iPad, as the pilot’s other flights had been, with the recording starting at 16:53 at White Waltham Airfield when he was still parked. However, no active route had been selected for the accident flight and the recording was stopped at 18:22:54, eleven minutes before the aircraft disappeared from radar.

The system logs the date and time if the battery dies. The data file was dated two days after the accident, which shows that the iPad computer was running at the time of the impact.

He had never before used the two mobile phones on board for phone calls during flight and he’d only once before sent an SMS, that morning on the way to Turweston. The final text, informing his relative that the aircraft was going down, was sent 25 seconds after the attempted phone call. It would “require considerable dexterity,” as the report says, to send a 148-character message that quickly in an aircraft that was out of control. The aircraft flew for over two minutes after this text message in which he said he did not expect to survive.

In addition, the radar track of the aircraft shows that he had control of lateral flight when the message was sent. The aircraft then changed track at the same time as the pilot transmitted his MAYDAY message in which he claimed he was in a spin.

The AAIB report reaches no conclusion. The post-mortem examination concluded that death was by multiple injuries sustained in the impact. The inquest, a legal inquiry into the cause and circumstance of the death, is expected to be held this month and likely with a jury. As alcohol/drug related issues, illness and mechanical failure have been dismissed, the common verdicts for cause of death available to the coroner are:

  • accident or misadventure
  • suicide
  • open verdict (insufficient evidence for any other verdict)

I don’t expect the verdict to come as a surprise to anyone who has read the AAIB report.

AAIB investigation to Piper PA-38-112 Tomahawk, G-BNDE Air Accidents Investigation Branch report – GOV.UK

24 April 2015

Nine amazing air traffic controllers … just doing their job

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has an annual event to recognise the best “flight assist” of air traffic controllers in nine regions which cover the United States. The presentation was last month and their website includes highlights from the radio transcripts and offer an interesting look into the trials and tribulations of controllers. It’s also a nice reminder of the people on the ground who are completely invested the flights in their region and what they are doing to make air travel safer for everyone.

I’ve done a summary of each of the regional winners; however if you are interested, there’s a lot more detail on the 11th Annual Archie League Medal of Safety Awards web pages.

Alaskan Region

Parker Corts was working the southeast Alaska sector when he noticed a Comanche pilot having trouble navigating.

(Note: I’ve jumped each video ahead to the radio highlights, you’ll need to backtrack if you want to hear the full presentation.)

The pilot was inbound to Juneau and Corts cleared the pilot for the LYNNS intersection for the approach but he noticed that the pilot was having trouble navigating. The pilot couldn’t find intersection, so instead Corts gave the pilot vectors and altitudes to bring him in.

After issuing the aircraft a heading of 100, Corts noticed the pilot was not flying the heading, even though he had read back the clearance correctly. Instead, the pilot was flying a 010 heading and heading directly for higher terrain. At that point, Corts’ expertise and instincts as an air traffic controller and pilot kicked in. He knew something was not okay in the aircraft.

It’s not clear what was wrong and the pilot hadn’t said that anything was wrong. However, Corts found that the pilot wasn’t able to maintain headings or altitudes and couldn’t tune into the VOR. The pilot eventually stated that his equipment didn’t appear to be working properly. Corts asked another aircraft in the area to help relay his messages and helped the pilot to get visual. Once he was in better weather conditions, the pilot was able to fly to a nearby airport and make a visual approach.

Central Region

Travis Arnold was working the Lincoln sector at R90 when he noticed an aircraft behaving erratically.

The weather was IFR with 800-foot ceilings and eight mile visibility, which warranted all arrivals into Lincoln be ILS. N4120S was being vectored for the ILS approach when Arnold noticed the pilot seemed to be struggling with the headings he was given.

Again, the pilot didn’t mention having any difficulties. Arnold thought the winds might be causing the discrepancy. He gave the pilot corrective headings but then near final and cleared for the ILS runway 18 approach, the pilot passed across the final approach course.

Arnold called out on the spot and issued another corrective heading to take the aircraft back towards the localiser. The pilot acknowledged the turn but it was clear something was wrong. Arnold asked the pilot if his gyro was working and the pilot admitted that he was getting crazy readings from his instruments. Arnold verified that the aircraft was straight and level and then tried again with no-gyro turns: telling the pilot exactly when to start and stop the standard rate turn rather than giving a heading other other instruction that relies on the instruments.

But then, the aircraft descended below the minimum vectoring altitude.

He issued a low altitude alert and instructed the pilot to climb to 3,000 feet. The pilot acknowledged. However, the aircraft continued to descend. Arnold issued another low altitude alert and again instructed the pilot to climb. He immediately instructed the pilot to stop his turn and climb to 4,000 feet. The pilot mentioned he had ground contact and was currently at 2,000 feet.

The pilot had not initially realised he was descending but once he was able to see the ground, he decided he needed to land it in the nearest field. Arnold reassured the pilot and convinced him to climb to 4,000 feet. Eventually above the clouds, the pilot was able to remedy the problem with his equipment and descend again for a safe landing at the airport.

Eastern Region

Joe Rodewald was working Charlottesvill approach when he noticed two VFR aircraft on converging courses at the same altitude.

Rodewald immediately began broadcasting in the blind in hopes that one or both aircraft were monitoring his frequency.

He didn’t get an answer until the aircraft were two miles apart. One of the pilots was monitoring the frequency and told Rodewald he was looking. Rodewald continued with traffic information until the pilot saw the oncoming aircraft.

When the aircraft were two miles apart, the pilot of N811LJ, who was proactively monitoring the frequency, acknowledged and answered Rodewald’s calls. He responded, “looking.” Rodewald continued to make traffic calls.

Rodewald Traffic is now one mile apart converging.

N811LJ 1LJ has the traffic in sight, thanks for the call out.

When the pilot finally got the other traffic in sight, the two aircraft were less than a mile and indicated 100 feet apart.

It must have been a huge relief to Rodewald to make contact and be able to divert one of the converging aircraft before it got too close.

Great Lakes Region

Justin Krenke was working a satellite position in the TRACON when he asked a Beechcraft to descend to 3000 feet because of known icing in the area. He couldn’t ask the pilot to descend any further.

Adam Helm, a controller and pilot, passed through and overheard the situation. He immediately joined Krenke to help. The pilot could not descend further and needed to climb above the icing conditions. Mike Ostrander called Minneapolis Center to let them know that they were handling the aircraft as an emergency and that it needed to climb past 4,000 feet.

While Krenke climbed the aircraft to 6,000 and then 8,000 feet, Helm pulled weather reports to try to find an alternate airport.

He even called Minneapolis Center and Milwaukee TRACON to ask if they had any airports in their area with visual flight rule conditions. There were none.

The pilot began to descend and head towards GRB. Mindful of the icing and pilot-reported equipment malfunction, the controllers started to prepare for a possible emergency ASR approach to GRB. As time progressed, it became evident that the pilot was having an increasingly difficult time maintaining headings and altitude due to the icing. About 20 miles from GRB, the pilot declared an emergency and descended below the minimum vectoring altitude in an attempt to get under the icing conditions.

The controllers jumped into action and relayed possible obstructions to the pilot. They also found an alternate airport where the pilot could land, Oconto Airport (OCQ).

Just when it looked like the pilot could land, he reported that there were ploughs on the runway.

Controllers lost radar and communications with the aircraft and were notified that the aircraft had crash landed. They later heard that all crew and passengers were safe.

New England

Air Traffic Controllers Kelly Eger and Sarah LaPOrte Ostrander were working next to each other at Boston ATCT in the evening rush. Eger was working the local west position and Ostrander was training someone on ground control.

JetBlue 405 was not going to make the departure sequencing time, so a new one was coordinated. Because of this, the JetBlue aircraft had to be taken out of the sequence of aircraft awaiting takeoff. Eger decided to move the aircraft across runway 22R at runway 15L. She told the pilot to turn onto runway 15L and hold short of runway 22R.

The pilot acknowledged and readback the instructions directly. Eger continued and cleared a United flight for take-off. The United aircraft was rolling at highspeed down the runway when Ostrander realised that the JetBlue aircraft was not holding short but instead was looking likely to cross runway 22R in front of the United flight which was at high speed.

The video above shows the relative locations of the aircraft. At 02:50 you can see the JetBlue heading for the intersection.

Ostrander alerted Eger, who saw the situation and called on JetBlue to stop immediately.

JetBlue stopped just before the ASDE-X alert went off in the control tower. Thanks to Eger and Ostrander’s teamwork and professionalism, United departed safely.

I can just imagine the heart-stopping moment when they saw JetBlue was still moving. Fast reactions by everyone saved the day.

Northwest Mountain Region

Mark Haechler was a trainee at Seattle Center working with Al Passero and Matt Dippé when a Cessna 172 Skyhawk got into trouble. It had flown to Boeing Field airport earlier that day on a VFR flight that he’d had to convert to IFR as he was unable to maintain VFR and flew into icing conditions.

On the way back, the pilot’s problems continued and he struggled with icing, downdrafts, terrain and deviating from his course.

Haechler:N48E, report leaving 8,800.

N3048E: Uh, we are actually still at 8,500, so we will inform you when we leave 8,800, 48E.

Haechler: N48E, I’m showing you, ah, actually in a descent. I did show you at 8,600. Now I show you out of 8,400.

N3048E: Yeah, I think we were getting some downdrafts there. We’re trying our best to get it up, 48E.

Haechler: N48E, I need you to expedite your climb to 10,000 for terrain.

The controllers declared an emergency. The aircraft could not climb, so Haechler turned him back towards lower terrain. Passero found a nearby approach but the aircraft wasn’t DME equipped and didn’t have the approach plate.

N3048E: Still getting some downdrafts, unable to climb. Can you give us some vectors around the terrain, please, 48E?

Haechler: N48E, uh, you are below my terrain and unable to climb, I am now declaring this an emergency. Turn right heading 0-2-0 for, uh, terrain.

Because the aircraft had become an emergency, the controllers decided to have the Skyhawk pilot fly the approach, while vectoring him to the final approach course. This would allow the controllers to step him down to the airport gradually while still monitoring his actions. Throughout this, the pilot repeatedly turned west and they would have to correct his course to get him back on track.

It must have been stressful but eventually, it worked. The Skyhawk broke out of the weather and was able to see the airport, where he made a safe visual landing.

Southern Region

Sarina Gumbert was working the Departure Radar West at Central Florida TRACON. A large conference had ended the day before and it was quiet. She had only one other aircraft when a Cessna Citation Mustang N7876C departed Orlando International Airport and entered her airspace.

The tower controller at MCO had assigned N7876C a 015 heading after departure, which he correctly read back. When the pilot of N7876C called DRW, he stated that he was turning right to 015. The read back was correct. The DRW position typically covers a range of about 45 to 50 miles of airspace. Looking at this much airspace, it is somewhat difficult to observe, in a split second, when an aircraft is not flying the correct heading, especially when a pilot says the heading you expect him or her to state

However, Gumbert immediately saw that the aircraft was off track. She issued a 360 heading and asked him what his assigned heading was. The Citation pilot read back 015. She asked the the pilot to turn left immediately and informed him of conflicting traffic. “It appears you are eastbound,” she told him. The Mustang was tracking 097 degrees and was aiming directly at JetBlue 94 who had just departed Runway 35L at Orlando International Airport.

After changing the pilot’s heading, there was no response from him. Gumbert continued to maintain her professionalism and calmly issued a traffic alert before again asking the pilot of N7876C his heading. Finally, he casually replied that his heading was 360. Gumbert then issued the Citation an immediate left turn to 270. Instead of questioning the pilot’s actions, she instantaneously attempted to mitigate the situation.

As the speaker says, that’s 45 seconds of blood-pumping action just right there.

Southwest Region

Hugh McFarland at Houston received a call from a VFR pilot who was trapped above clouds, solid IFR weather. He’d been flying towards Houston for almost two hours without seeing a break in the weather.

McFarland’s job was to get the pilot down; however the weather was 8,000 feet thick and extended for hundreds of miles. There wasn’t an airport that the pilot could get to VFR within fuel range. So McFarland needed to get the pilot through the weather and to a runway. The best option was Houston Executive Airport (TME)

As a Beechcraft Baron aircraft owner and certified multi-engine instrument rated pilot himself, McFarland understood how critical it was that the pilot be able to land at TME. For 20 minutes, McFarland acted as the pilot’s navigation equipment and eyes through the weather. He prepared the pilot for the descent into TME, helped the pilot load up his GPS with the airport’s information, constantly reminded the pilot of his airspeed, bank angle in the turn, to stay calm, to breathe, to trim the aircraft, and to ensure the carburetor heat was on to prevent icing, among other things.

The pilot finally broke free of the clouds at 700 feet above sea level. McFarland lost radar contact but kept instructing the pilot until the aircraft had landed safely at Houston Executive Airport.

Western Pacific Region

Jesse Anderson was working at Brackett Field Air Traffic Control Tower in California when a Cessna Skyhawk requested ATIS information. Anderson had only two other aircraft, so he passed on the ATIS information rather than have the pilot switch frequencies.

The pilot had intended to go to Brackett Field but he took a wrong turn towards Cable Airport, an uncontrolled airport four miles northeast.

Anderson tried repeatedly to get the pilot to turn away from the busy airport but the pilot didn’t understand. He ended up in the downwind for Cable and in conflict with three aircraft. Anderson calmly gave traffic alerts and tried to get the pilot away from the danger.

Anderson observed N1120Z turn northbound and told him to turn east instead, away from the other aircraft. Once established on a course away from Cable, Anderson then told the Skyhawk pilot to turn right on a suggested heading of 260. Once he observed N1120Z turn east, he told the pilot to continue his right turn and finally got him flying west towards Brackett again.

Once the pilot was on track for the correct airport, he was heading directly into the sun and couldn’t see. Anderson talked the pilot down until he had the runway in sight.

N1120Z: 20Z, uh, up at 2,500, I missed the runway; I cannot see the runway because the sun is in my eyes.

Anderson: Cessna 20Z, continue westbound, you’re lined for Cable airport, just continue westbound, do you have the 210 freeway in sight?

N1120Z: I see this, runway 2-4, it says Cable, Cable runway?

Anderson: Cessna 20Z, affirmative, that’s Cable, just continue westbound, continue on that heading.

N1120Z: Continue heading, 20Z.

N1120Z: May I turn back on 2-6, Brackett, 20Z?

Anderson: Cessna 20Z, just continue that heading for Brackett, just go fly straight ahead on that current heading.

N1120Z: Oh I see I missed…oh I, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now that he had Brackett’s runway in sight, he was able to land safely but, clearly stressed and upset, he then turned the wrong way off the runway. Anderson continued to guide the pilot until the aircraft was safely out of the way.

And the winner is…

Only one region is awarded the President’s award and I have to say, I’m glad I didn’t have to pick!

This year, the award went to Hugh McFarland of Houston TRACON in the Southwest region, for his help getting a VFR pilot down safely.

As a pilot, it’s easy to forget that the disembodied voices on the radio are real people who at heart want one thing: safe skies for everyone. That’s why I’m a big fan of the NATCA awards, highlighting the types of incidents that can come up in a day’s work as an air traffic controller.

17 April 2015

My top five animals that shouldn’t be allowed near aircraft

Maybe not everyone should reach for the skies. The following animals may bring flightcrew to despair…

Disqualified: Crocodiles

The crocodile who caused a plane crash made headlines all over the world but there’s no real evidence that the croc was ever on the plane, let alone caused the passengers to stampede in fear.

The idea of the in-flight stampede to run from an unexpectedly toothy aircraft occupant was related by the one surviving passenger. But she initially told investigators that that the passengers panicked because the aircraft was landing at a reserve strip instead of runway 11/29. Two months later, she changed the story and told a Congolese tabloid that the panic was caused by a crocodile on board. She had no explanation as to why they would all run to the cockpit for safety.

A British air accident investigator at the pilot’s inquest dismissed the stampede theory and stated that the most likely cause of the crash was that the aircraft stalled on final approach.

Read the whole story: Fear of Landing – Congo Crocodile Plane Crash

Runner Up: Pigs

OK, this isn’t actually an encounter with an aircraft but the camera was flying, so I think that it just about counts.

Farmer Mia Munsell discovered a mud-spattered GoPro camera in her pig pen and of course immediately went to see if there was anything recorded on it. To her surprise, she discovered that the camera had fallen from a skydiving aircraft and filmed everything all the way down, including one of her pigs trying to discover if it was edible.

The camera had been in the pig pen for eight months and in what’s been called “the best advertisement for GoPro ever” survived with the footage intact. She uploaded it to YouTube where it swiftly went viral.

Number Five: Dead Foxes

This British Airways Boeing 747-400 was coming into land at Heathrow when a dead fox was discovered on runway 27L. This is apparently not a rare situation in the southeast of England.

Eight or nine aircraft had to go around while catering airport staff cleared the runway of the carcass.

Number Four: Fish

Words fail me.

Spokane Chronicle – Google News Archive Search

A midair collision between a jetliner and a fish — that’s right, a fish — delayed an Alaska Airlines flight for about an hour while the plane was inspected for damage.

“They found a greasy spot with some scales, but no damage,” said Paul Bowers, Juneau airport manager.

And how can a jet hit a fish? It’s easy, if the fish is dropped by a bald eagle.

The incident occurred as the Boeing 737 took off Monday morning from the Juneau airport, the plane’s pilot told Bowers. About 400 feet past the runway’s end, the jet crossed the flight path of a bald eagle, fish in talons.

“The law of the jungle prevailed,” Bowers said. “As the larger bird approached, the smaller bird dropped its prey.” The fish hit a small “eyebrow window” at the top of the cockpit, Bowers said.

A mechanic was dispatched to the plane’s next stop in Yakutat, 200 miles to the northwest, said Jerry Kvasnikoff, Alaska Airlines customer services manager in Juneau.

The eagle apparently escaped injury. The fish, species unknown, is presumed dead.

“This time of year, if I had to guess, it might have been a cod,” Kvasnikoff said. “You never know what an eagle will get into.

Kvasnikoff and Bowers said this was the first airplane-fish collision they had heard of, but they said jets occasionally collide with other forms of Alaska wildlife.

“Over the years, we’ve had planes hit various critters — moose, deer, every kind of bird. But that’s a first for fish,” Kvasnikoff said.

The moose collision, by the way, occurred on the ground. It happened more than 10 years ago on the runway of the Cordova airport, and the moose inflicted considerably more damage than the fish.

“It cleaned the nose wheel of the plane — collapsed the front gear,” Kvasnikoff said.

Number Three: Cows

This Tiger Moth flight came to an abrupt end when the engine failed. They took off from a small airfield and brought it down in a field. Forty seconds in on the right-hand side of the footage, an unsuspecting cow goes under the wing

The pilot and his passengers never even saw the cow, they said, and were surprised to see it on the footage when they reviewed the landing.

Shortly after takeoff, when at approximately 200 ft above ground level, the engine speed dropped to idle. The pilot lowered the nose of the aircraft to maintain flying speed and turned right to land in a suitable field. The aircraft cleared a sturdy barbed wire fence but, as the aircraft touched down, a cow ran under and struck the left wing. The cow was apparently uninjured. Investigation of the aircraft by a local engineer found corrosion debris in the carburettor.

However, I have to admit that cows got their revenge when I tried to to sneak up to the Brookman’s Park VOR on private land:
Fear of Landing – Narrowly Avoiding Mad Cows

Then there’s the jet that managed to hit two cows coming in to land at Djalaluddin Airport, Gorontalo.

The Lion Air jet carrying 110 passengers and seven crew crashed into the cows who were wandering on the runway and became dazzled by the landing lights.

The only injuries were two passengers who ignored the cabin crew request to remain seated but instead evacuated through the right over-wing emergency window on their own.

Original news reports said that the condition of the cow was unknown, however AV-Herald describes the cow as embedded under the main gear, so I don’t think there’s a happy ending there.

You can read the full report in English at http://www.dephub.go.id/knkt/ntsc_aviation/baru/Final%20Report%20PK-LKH.pdf

At 1313 UTC, the aircraft touched down at runway 27 and during landing roll the flight crew saw some animals ahead were crossing the runway. Then when approximate 550 meters from the beginning of runway 27 and at aircraft speed approximate at 120 knots, the aircraft hit such animals.

Afterward, the pilots felt ineffective of brake respond and then the aircraft veered off to the left and trapped on the left side of the runway shoulder at about 2,100 meters from the beginning of runway 27.

The smell of burning meat entered the cabin during the landing roll and went out after the engines shut-down.

Number Two: Emus

Emu by "The b@t"

Wouldn’t it have been awkward to have a bird strike with a flightless bird?

Warning: Entirely Justified Coarse Language is Used in this Video

The video went viral and I managed to contact the pilot, who was happy to tell me all about it.

I touched down 80 metres from the threshold and was just letting it roll out (save the brakes and undercarriage on the rough strip) and the speed had just dipped below about 90kts. Approach on the PA-601 is about 100. As you can hear, we were discussing the state of strip, which used to be very wide, but the grass is narrowing it further each year. An emu was sitting on the side unseen in the bushes and we obviously startled it, and it bolted from cover in front. One of my passengers yelled out, and I jumped on the brakes, hard, and washed off about 40 knots in about 3 seconds! The emu went in front of us and lost his footing on the loose dust, just as the wing passed harmlessly over him!

You can read the full story here:Fear of Landing – A Close Encounter with an Emu

The Emu probably has his own opinion on top five aircraft he never again wants to see in his territory.

Number One: Bears

In 2009, I published a series of photographs of an aircraft mauled by a bear. That blog post is still my most popular of all time. The photographs showed a Alaskan Piper Supercub which had been mauled by a bear and the amazing aircraft repairs done by the pilot.


FAA Approved?

You can see all the photographs on my original post: Fear of Landing – FAA Approved?

Alaska Dispatch got the full story from the pilot’s father a few months later. The bear, it seems, had been locked out of a meatshed where it had previously found succulent moose steaks free for the taking. When it found it couldn’t get in, hunter LaRose thinks that it turned its fury onto the aircraft.

An appetite for revenge | Alaska Dispatch

After a few days of meticulous fix-it work, the plane was airworthy enough to fly back to Anchorage. Miller fitted the windows with plywood and Plexiglas, replaced the tires and the horizontal stabilizer (the bear either leaned on it or sat on it), and, according to Miller’s dad, fashioned a makeshift fabric skin out of 25 rolls of duct tape and some industrial-strength plastic wrap.

As for the bear, it hasn’t been seen since. It may have been “whacked” during bear hunting season in October, or it may be playing it smart. After all, bears know when it’s time “to get the hell out of Dodge,” according to LaRose.