Those who live in Grass Houses….

October 21, 2009 by Bruce Landsberg

Grass-HousesThere was an accident last week involving a flying club PA28 aircraft that apparently slipped off the runway after heavy rains and collided with a tree. The pilot was killed and his three passengers injured. Winds at the time were reported 36012G17 – not sure of the runway alignment.

NTSB is investigating and while there might be some comments about the pilot’s decision to get into such a situation in the first place, that’s a bit premature. It’s more instructive on how web news is changing the perception of everything – GA accidents included. WBIR, the NBC affiliate, had the web writeup with this quote from the president of the flying club:

“Meanwhile, he’s (the president) upset about the impact this crash has on the Oak Ridge Flyers, the club to which Chadwick belonged, and the airport itself.

“Future pilots may think twice about flying or may have spouses that don’t want them to fly because of the accident,” he said, “but I think most of us that are here will stay and continue flying.”

Of equal concern was the nature of commentary by readers regarding the crash. It ranged from the usual blame and defense of the pilot to the idea that grass strips should be paved. Commenting pilots were perhaps more outspoken then the general public. It’s a sobering reminder that everything we, as pilots, do is increasingly in the public eye.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Jim Pearce

    Bruce: Although it has been several years since I flew there, I learned to fly at the field where this accident happened and was once a member of the flying club. Some background on the field: It is treated as a one-way airport because of the rising terrain to the north of the field. The primary landing is on runway 15 so if the wind was 36012G17 that would have a major impact on landing distance.

    It is an excellent grass strip, as smooth as any I have flown on. It has been the site of two previous fatal accidents. One in 1982 and another several years before that.

    Oak Ridge has looked at building a public airport off and on for 30 years. There is a current attempt to restart the talk. One can only hope that this accident doesn’t hurt that attempt and possibly even helps it.

  • Bruce Landsberg


    Thanks much for the comment. One way strips do pose a hazard to the unwary or unprepared. It’s one of those areas where there usually isn’t much training and some try to learn by doing. That’s fine but picking more favorable conditions is essential.

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