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Windowless Planes Are Closer Than You Think


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There was actually a case of an F-16 that landed itself on a golf course.

 

Airplane happened to be lined up on a golf course, engine flamed out, backup battery for the flight controls came on, pilot put the landing gear down, then decided he didn't like how it felt and ejected.

 

So there the airplane was, canopy gone and cockpit empty, descending (gliding) straight ahead, gear down, lined up on a golf course. It landed PERFECTLY, rolled out, and if it hadn't been for an unfortunately-placed tree, there wouldn't have been a scratch on it.

 

I was working at GD Fort Worth at the time. A coworker had a copy of the pilot's manual, and we checked the instructions for that situation (engine out, unable to restart). It says, in so many words, if there is ANY doubt about your ability to control the airplane, EJECT.

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Not a chance, Flash. Not a chance.

 

Human pilots are STILL better at figuring out incredibly creative ways to get crippled airplanes back on the ground, frequently with everyone still alive and healthy.

 

The DC-10 that basically lost its tail feathers when the tail-mounted engine blew is an example. Quite a few people died in that one, but a lot more lived. That one was darned near a flat-out miracle.

 

Sully's dead-stick water landing comes to mind. Ditto the Gimli Glider. There was a similar case, of a crew who dead-sticked a 737 safely down onto a levee a few years ago.

 

Well, you have to compare the saves by human pilots vs accidents caused by pilot error.

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"Flying" magazine used to have a column titled "Aftermath". They'd present a radio transcript, of a scenario that ended in a crash, and go back through to point out what went wrong.

 

One month, they did it differently, and presented a transcript of a save. Cargo 707, something went wrong during takeoff, and the crew saved it.

 

Reading that transcript was interesting. That crew did a superb job, stayed absolutely professional, and you could tell that they all knew that it was ALL on the line right then, with NO margin for anything.

 

The feeling of relief when they knew they had the airplane back on the ground, everyone safe, nothing broken, was OBVIOUS.

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