I just saw the following story: Micron CEO Appleton dies in plane crash. According to the article, if they got their story straight, his plane was on fire when, based on ATC recordings, he stated his intentions to turn back just before crashing. Unfortunately, it didn’t end at all well. I feel terrible for this gentleman’s family and I’m sorry that he lost his life. It made me think about what I might do in the same situation, and I don’t want to seem cold or uncaring, but when it hits the fan, don’t turn back.
I’m not sure how accurate reports are, but according to a local news story, he was in a Lancair flying “about 100 to 200 feet above ground when it stalled, then nosedived.” This is certainly not the best place to be and I don’t wish to suggest that I might perform ideally under such circumstances, but I think it is important to consider such eventualities and make and effort to learn from these kinds of accidents so that if we do find ourselves behind the controls with fire between our legs, we’ve at least thought about what to do. Again, I’m not sure of all the details, like whether his engine was still running or how bad the fire was (any fire is bad enough), so I’m operating on scant information. It looks to me, if I was in the same position, that the best course of action is to land straight out. Even outside the airport boundaries, it seems like either end of the airport is pretty clear. It would probably tear the plane up pretty badly, and there are some possibly substantial obstacles, but I don’t think landing out would be life-threatening. That said, it was a Lancair, which are pretty quick planes, so I don’t know how far out he was, how fast he was flying, or if he actually did turn back. If it was very early after takeoff, he may not have had a chance to do anything. In either case this is a terrible thing and I never want to experience a similar situation, but you better believe that I’m going to be thinking about it the next time I go flying.
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