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Always Have a Place to Land

Back to Basics

by Mike Doiron, Regional Aviation Safety Officer, Atlantic Region

A Cessna 152 aircraft had just returned from a local training flight at Waterville, Nova Scotia. The following pilot, who had 175 hrs total flying time, planned to conduct a local solo training flight from the right seat for instructor practice. The walk-around showed no problems and the run-up was uneventful.

After takeoff, at 200-300 ft., the pilot experienced a rapid loss of engine RPM. He did a quick check of mixture and throttle to ensure they had not backed off. When all showed normal settings, the pilot realized that it was time to switch to the emergency plan.

The pilot showed self-discipline and composure in resisting the urge to return to the airport at such a low altitude. A suitable landing area was identified, the pilot pulled back on the power and concentrated on the task ahead. He managed to get the aircraft on the ground, but bounced in the rough field, which caused the aircraft to veer to the left and strike a tree, resulting in major damage to the left side of the aircraft. There was no post-accident fire and the pilot escaped with minor injuries.

Lesson learned: It can happen to anyone. The pilot was in the habit of practising mentally for emergencies at each takeoff and reacted appropriately. He appreciated the reduced reaction time for engine malfunctions at low altitude. The pilot had trained at removing the fire extinguisher from its holding bracket while in flight. The pilot made the transition from the cockpit to the landing area and focused on flying the aircraft without being preoccupied with the cause of emergency. The use of the shoulder harness likely reduced the extent of the injuries. It may not be possible to eliminate all aviation risks, but experience and training can help reduce the severity of an occurrence.