“I heard him take off, as I was sitting in the break room with my twisted ankle propped on the back of a chair, sipping too-hot tea to help swallow the ibuprofen. It’s a warm summer afternoon; we have the hangar door open for free light more powerful than any flashlight, every scrap of cooling breeze that might cross the airfield in our direction, and general enjoyment of the weather.
So, that I heard him was not unusual – we hear every plane that takes off. But it sounded wrong. Too low, too loud – every single one of the 300 horses in that engine was straining at the traces, but he wasn’t more than 75 feet off the ground as he passed near the end of a 4000 foot runway. I swung the foot down and winced as I shoved the swollen ankle into my boot, ace bandage trailing out the top like a mummy unraveling, and limped quickly toward the open hangar door. On the way, I heard the first BAM! followed by more engine sound, then WHAM! followed by silence.
As I got outside, every mechanic in the place was already outside, all looking just beyond the first buildings, and through a gap, I saw the first smoke rise. Soon, it doubled them quadrupled in output, in a dense black smudge of fierce avgas-fueled fire rising and roiling along the rooftops as the wind caught it. And all over the city, sirens started to scream as every nearby emergency worker shoved through traffic and prayed they wouldn’t be too late.
I don’t care what you’ve heard, the saying “If you can fit it in a 206, it’ll fly” is flat WRONG! DO YOUR WEIGHT AND BALANCE!
The saving grace: he landed right next to a main artery at rush hour and didn’t take out anyone on the ground. 26 regular commuters and everyday people abandoned their cars and rushed to the crash, holding the wings up and pulling five out of six people out, before the sheer heat of the full fuel tanks going up in flames drove them back. He also landed several hundred feet short of a paint distributor, which would have caused a toxic fire like a gateway into hell itself.
If I ever catch you on the airport trying to put this load of lumber into your plane, and then load your family, I won’t wait to call the FAA on you – I’ll slug you myself. Try to press charges if you want – at least your child will still be alive.” (Author remains anonymous)
*Comment by JaJaBa*: Did you know?
- the sounds, just prior to an aircraft accident are later recalled in just as much “slow motion” as the visuals?
- witnessing an accident causes incredible anger, fear and usually sticks to the people for quite a while?
- people pray everyday, not only for those who perish, but also for those left behind?
- the smell of such a burn will not leave your smelling senses alone for a long time?
- the suddenly missing sound of an aircraft engine that is stopped by impact is deafening?
Accidents happen. They always will. Whatever the NTSB may find as the cause for this one, it appears, as if one of the reasons may have been the aircrafts incapability to aerodynamically overcome its own weight. A Cessna 206 is not exactly weak on its chest. Neither is Super Man! However we wish to turn and twist it… both have limits and one of them is a comic character who almost never fails. Please do your weight and balance! A plane that has flown over gross may not do so again, and a small nuance may be the reason it cannot perform as well on it’s very last flight, as it did before. For those wondering how a weight and balance issue may “feel like” on the controls: “If you pull and try to get more lift from the wings, you stall – if you let go of the elevator to gain more speed you sink heavily without gaining much speed”. The pilot feels right then and there, that there is NOWHERE to go. Flying through it takes probably more luck than skill – and the smallest movement or mis-coordination ends the flight. Don’t be there! Prayers to friends and family of those involved and to the helpers who got more out of their commute than they bargained for.