In Part I of this blog, Chip Wright shared some of his favorite random, dumb, and often funny things that pilots have done. Here’s the second installment from Chip, gleaned over more than 20 years of flying.–Ed.
The FAA has eyes everywhere. There isn’t a pilot in the Chesapeake Bay region who has not dreamed of flying under the Bay Bridge. I know of two instances when it happened. The first one was a very elaborately planned event on a calm Sunday morning. It was, even in the pilot’s words, “really, really dumb.” But he pulled it off and lived to tell about it.
The second one was beyond really dumb. He did it during the normal course of a weekday, and as he did so a local FAA employee was—you guessed it—driving across the bridge. The airplane was distinctively colored and had 12-inch N-numbers.
I would have paid to see the ramp check after the landing.
The FAA has eyes everywhere, Part II: Here’s a hint: If you fly to an airport that has been clamoring for an instrument approach for years, don’t go blowing minimums when you first get to do it. The pilot in this case was known for being a hot dog. Bay Bridge Airport in Stevensville, Maryland, had just gotten a VOR approach to Runway 29, and it was at a fairly stiff angle to make the turn from the radial to the runway. On the day in question, an FAA inspector was at the airport, waiting to see if anyone would fly the approach. A pilot in a twin Cessna announced his arrival and proceeded to fly the approach and land, even though the ceiling and the visibility were both below minimums. The pilot’s enthusiasm had overcome his common sense, in part because he knew the terrain so well that he knew if he established ground contact he’d be OK.
The inspector was not amused.
Cleared to land…but didn’t. The controller in Cincinnati who told me this story swears it’s true. A Boeing 767 was arriving during a major non-push, and was at 3,000 feet on the final, obviously locked on to the localizer, and cleared to land…but he didn’t descend. The controllers tried to call the crew, but got no answer. As the airplane began to fly over the runway, the controller hit his mic and said, “So…you guys want a left or a right downwind? And this time, for our planning, are you actually going to land?”
The captain was very terse on the radio for the rest of flight.
Oops. I read this in a publication somewhere. A pilot in a Bonanza (I believe) flew into Smallville, USA, for business, and left the airport for a while. When he came back, his airplane was gone…as in, up-in-smoke gone. It had caught fire. The investigation finally revealed that he used a magnifying glass to read the charts in the cockpit, and he had left the magnifying glass on top of the charts. As the sun came overhead and began shining through the window, the magnifying glass heated the paper, and the rest is history. So is the airplane.
Who’da thunk? A friend had just bought a Piper Warrior, a real pretty blue one. After one of his first flights, he was taxiing to his tiedown and decided to come in from the tail end, as the spots on either side were empty. He had the nosewheel lined up perfectly with the bottom of the ‘T’ where the tail tie is. And that, my friends, is as far as he got. The prop sucked the rope up and wrapped it around the shaft. The nose was pulled down, and the prop hit the ground and stopped.
The insurance adjuster had never seen that one before.
None of these take into account pilots who have landed at the wrong airport—even ones with a tower—or pilots who have taxied into a ditch or a building (I have one of those stories), or flipped up the gear lever too early on a touch and go, only to settle onto the runway (I have one of those stories too), or have done myriad other dumb things. If you have a story to match or beat these, I’d love to hear it.—Chip Wright