Merde Merde Merde: Crash Landing in French Field

12 Feb 16 9 Comments

This video appeared on YouTube last week and shows a cockpit point-of-view of a small aircraft taking off from a grass strip when suddenly the engine fails.

Apparently, the pilot was completely unharmed, which surprised me. An anonymous commenter on an aviation forum said that the pilot spent ten years building the plane, a two-seater low-wing sports kit-plane called le Pulsar.

On the first touchdown, he was travelling at 130 km/h (80mph). The landing gear broke off and the aircraft bounced. The aircraft then hit the ground still travelling 60km/h (37mph).

Pulsar after the crash

The aircraft suffered a broken landing gear, an issue with the engine and “small damages”. The wings, amazingly, appear to be completely intact.

I have to admit, this comment made me laugh:

So, like, what does this Merde! Merde! Merde! mean anyway? Is that French for Mayday Mayday Mayday or what?

Well, something like that, sure.


  • Must suck to have built a plane and have it fail like that! Good thing it isn’t a write off though! :)

  • That is right, Andrew, but this is also why we can laugh at it. The plane will live to fly again, hopefully without “merde” and without landing the pilot in it !

  • The pilot seems remarkably composed, actually did a good job.
    The first words he spoke after the propeller stopped were “Panne moteur” (engine problem or failure). It is more than likely that he was transmitting.

    It reminds me of what happened to a friend of mine many years ago.
    He never did anything wrong, the following is just a combination of bad luck and some actually superb airmanship. He died of an illness many years ago , so I can honour his memory by telling two stories, both factual, about him. His name was Nico Pilger RIP.
    He was a flight instructor, operating out of Rotterdam.
    A few years before that, we had “cut our teeth” as commercial pilots flying advertising banners out of Essen-Muelheim (EDLE) in Germany. The company was then called by its full name “Westdeutsche Luftwerbung Theodor Wuellenkemper K.G.”, later re-named “WDL Flugdienst” and may well still exist as a cargo airline out of Cologne EDDK. In the 1960s it operated more than 20 Super Cubs for the purpose of banner towing operations.
    WDL needed pilots in a hurry because the German authorities had introduced a new law, obliging first officers in any airline to hold an ATPL. Many who flew on a CPL with ME, IR and a typerating were suddenly obliged to expedite getting an ATPL or lose their jobs. Which opened the way for pilots flying executive aircraft and already holding an ATPL to move to the airlines (in those days the jobs were gold dust) and many others, not employed, went to school to get the ATPL. All this, of course, created a vacuum at the bottom, like sightseeing, banner towing and photo flying. WDL to fill the gap employed a number of Norwegians as well as some French, Austrians an Arab and Dutch – Nico and myself.
    WDL did not have a great reputation for maintaining their PA18s. They had a reputation for cutting corners and we used to joke that they did not overhaul the aircraft but merely “resprayed them to zero time”.
    Nico was once over a small town in West Germany with an advertising banner when his engine failed. He would have been well able to glide away from the built-up area. But that would have required him to drop the banner which he did not want to do, being over houses, shops and schools. So he managed to drag it away from the town but that, of course, reduced his options to near-zero. But he dropped the banner as soon as he was over open terrain and headed for a dead-stick landing in a meadow.
    Unfortunately, it turned out that it was not grass but winter corn. It has already grown to about a metre (3 feet) in height and as he sank into it for what should have been a perfect emergency landing, the corn stalks wound themselves around his wheels and pulled the aircraft upside-down.
    Nico was unhurt and the next day appeared in a local newspaper, standing beside the Super Cub like a Victorian big game hunter, with one arm draped casually over one of the wheels.
    Later, he became a corporate pilot and flight instructor. In those days, Rotterdam (EHRD) had a major runway and a grass landing strip. It may well still be there. It was possible then to fly non-radio via the “free lane”; control of the non-radio traffic was from a van by means of coloured light signals from an Aldis lamp.
    Nico was with a student in a Jodel, taking off from the grass runway 24.
    The flying club was near the treshold of runway 06, between the grass and concrete runways.
    The Jodel had an automatic system to prevent carburetor icing. It may not have been sufficient, because the engine failed just after take-off.
    At the end of the grass strip loomed a housing estate. Nico decided to make a 90 degree turn to the grass area surrounding the threshold of 06. He was a little bit low and skimmed a hedge near the clubhouse. Normally, that would not have been a problem but what he could not see were large, concrete drain piped deposited on the other side, awaiting some work. The Jodel’s main wheels bounced off the pipes and was thrown a bit off-course. It landed on the car park of the flying club.
    Right on top of the student’s car !
    MERDE !
    Both pilots were unhurt.

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