Textbook soft-field landing

Happy Spring Flying Season! For those folks who use grass airports they presumably are likely to be wet and therefore will require a soft field landing. This is part of training for a Private certificate, but few of us get the opportunity to practice as paved runways are so common in the U.S.

For inspiration, consider this landing, filmed by a bystander, near St. Petersburg, Florida, in “Plane Forced to Land on Treasure Island Beach After Engine Dies” (scroll towards bottom of the page to see the smartphone video):

The Piper Archer II took off from Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg and had been airborne about 15 to 20 minutes with the student in control when the engine quit, according to instructor pilot Jenna Dunay.

Dunay took the plane’s controls but could not restart the engine, she told Spectrum News. Dunay said she decided the plane would not make it back to the airport so she decided they had to land on the beach.

“I went for a walk down the beach and all of a sudden this plane is coming directly at me. I thought, ‘Man, that’s pretty low to be seeing the beach.’ It kept getting lower, literally coming right at me,” he described, saying that the plane was at least 300 yards away from him.

Thompson, who is visiting Florida with his business partners, said he saw one of the pilots getting out of the plane.

“She smacked down and she jumped out with bags in her hand. I thought maybe that’s what you guys do down here in Florida, but turns out it’s not common,” said Thompson…

From another TV station:

She was forced to land the plane behind the Bilmar Resort in Treasure Island. The pilot said she clipped a plastic pole with one of the wings while trying to avoid people on the sand.

“I don’t think I had time to be nervous,” Dunay said. “I just picked a part of the beach with the fewest amount of people, wide enough to where even if there were people we could avoid them.”

Dunay has been flying planes since 2017, and has been an instructor a little more than a year. She’s thankful, knowing it could have ended differently.

“I’m glad the sand was packed down well so it made for a better landing then if it was soft sand, so could’ve been worse but could’ve been better,” Dunay said. “It was muscle memory, didn’t need to look at the checklist, just ran through every possible thing and that’s all you can do.”

When glass-is-half-empty types write the headline: “Small plane crashes into pole during emergency landing on Florida beach” (minimal damage to a 41-year-old airplane, N82746, that is worth less than a lot of new cars and hitting a pole is what’s significant about this event?).

The track, from FlightAware:

A good reason to take a longer parental leave? (“Third day back at work after maternity leave”)


4 thoughts on “Textbook soft-field landing

  1. “part of the beach with the fewest amount of people,”

    She may know how to pilot a plane, but she doesn’t know how to speak grammatical English!

  2. It slewed and skidded around a little, and too bad for the plastic pole and the minor wing damage, but otherwise Bravo! That’s awesome work, great piloting under pressure and presence of mind. Now everyone has to look back and figure out why that engine quit. I’d fly with her any time.

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