Tom Haines

Way to go, Sean

May 8, 2009 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

Congratulations to famed air show pilot Sean Tucker for displaying terrific aeronautical decision making–true airmanship.

As you may have heard, Tucker landed on Highway 101 in northern California after concern that he didn’t have enough fuel to make it back to the airport. I can’t imagine a more difficult decision than one where you take a still-functioning airplane and put it down off airport. “Hope” always wants to horn in and convince you that you can make it back to the airport. But, concerned that he had a fuel problem, Tucker quickly assessed the situation and with assistance from the aerobatic team and photo ship he was flying with, put the airplane down safely without a scratch onto the highway. After adding fuel and with permission of authorities, he took off again and flew the short distance back to the airport.

As we have reported in AOPA Pilot making the decision to land off-airport is a tough, but often good choice. In this article, AOPA members retell their tales of such decisions. Once it’s clear you’re going to land somewhere other than airport, you need to take immediate steps to improve your chances of survival, as we noted in this article on forced landings.

Tucker is also to be congratulated for having the PR savvy to fess up to what happened–he ran out of fuel, although it appears a change in the fuel system in his aerobatic airplane may have contributed to the confusion about how much fuel was on board. To hear him recount the tale and hear what he learned from the incident, listen to this podcast from AvWeb.

I’ve known Sean for more than a decade and have always found him careful and wonderfully candid about his flying. As he relates, “Nobody is immune from the gotchas in aviation.”

True, but only the really bright pilots learn from their mistakes and are willing to share their learnings as completely as Tucker has.

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3 Responses to “Way to go, Sean”

  1. Steve Roth Says:

    This is an example of what people SHOULD do. ADMIT was is happening and do the right and safe thing. Having misgiving feelings about fuel quantity and thinking you can make it to the airport to save yourself from criticism (or, worrying about what the FAA will say) is the wrong thing to do.

    Kudos to Sean for doing the right thing. He may take some lumps (or, an FAA “709″ Check Ride). Hopefully, this will get lost in the prop wash.

  2. Marty Bevill Says:

    How do you run out of gas in an airplane? I will never understand that….

    Good job on the event of the off airport landing.

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