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Old 09-16-2017, 01:55 PM   #1
Dana
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Default My Starduster Forced Landing

Yesterday I crashed my Starduster.

I was making a short cross country (100 miles) from my home in CT to near where we have a cabin in upstate NY. I had just crossed over the mountains where the cabin is and was about 5 minutes from my destination airport where my wife was waiting to pick me up when I smelled oil and suddenly lots of smoke came from the engine. I'd had an oil leak issue before during the trip home from Memphis where I bought the plane, but nothing like this and there was no smoke then. The engine was still running, but my feet felt warm and I was worried about fire, I decided it was time to get down FAST. In retrospect my feet were probably no warmer than usual as it's always warm down there, given the proximity of the exhaust to the firewall. Anyway, right under me was a huge field, 3/4 mile long , between the NY Thruway and Rt. 17. I briefly considered landing on the highway, but the field looked like the better choice and I didn't have much time to think about it. I chopped the power but didn't shut the engine down right away, made a normal approach. On short final I saw a stream across the field and added a bit of power to go over it, field was starting to look not so good but I wasn't going to risk going around. Pulled the mixture to kill the engine and shut the master switch before touchdown, didn't seem so bad, and... WHAM! Turned out the grass was about 5 feet high and the ground was muddy under it. Wheels caught, plane nosed over, and (this part is fuzzy) the plane cartwheeled, before ending up more or less upright.

I was completely unhurt, that was a stout little plane. Only my ankles are chewed up from walking back and forth through the sticker bushes dotting the field.

Naturally I was mobbed by police, emergency crews, and newscritters. One of the police, a forest ranger actually (the landing was in a state park), is my next door neighbor at the cabin so that probably smoothed things a bit. Getting it out of the field was an ordeal as it was several hundred yards from the road across the swampy ground, and the park wanted it removed immediately once the FAA said they weren't going to investigate. One of the cops called a wrecker that has some experience with moving airplanes (and is one of only two allowed to operate in the park). They showed up an hour or so later with a backhoe and a Bobcat set up as a forklift. Had to clear some trees along the road to get into the field, then they lifted the plane with the forks under the upper wing center section, carried it back to the road, and set it on a flatbed. Amazingly, no further damage was done. They wouldn't let me leave it on the roadside long enough to take the wings off and wanted to cut the wings off, but my daughter made a phone call and got permission to leave it in the parking lot of a junk shop about a mile down the road. Fortunately, NY17 is a wide four lane undivided highway, so with police escort they took it to the junk shop and left it there. Cost for all that, $2700, yikes. I'm hoping maybe my liability insurance might cover that since the park required me to remove it immediately as opposed to disassembling it on site and carrying it out in a less expensive manner.

I'll leave shortly to start taking the fairings and such off in preparation to pull the wings. Not yet sure what next, I'll probably bring it to my cabin (about 5 miles away) until I can make arrangements to bring it back to Connecticut.

Of course I'm second guessing what I could have done differently, but there weren't many good options. The highway might have been better, but landing on a busy road is a risk, too.

The damage appears limited to the upper right wingtip and fin/rudder, and of course my brand new landing gear is trashed. The prop must have stopped turning before it hit as it looks undamaged. Still, the entire plane will have to be stripped to know for sure... but that will be a job for somebody else, I don't have the time, space, or heart to do it. So there will be a project plane for sale, contact me if interested.

Pictures later, I'm on a real slow internet connection now.

Dana


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Old 09-16-2017, 02:26 PM   #2
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Since you are in one piece I'd say you did well. I suspect upside down is the norm except in an almost perfect off airport landing? What a shame.

Warm regards,

Jack


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Old 09-16-2017, 02:31 PM   #3
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Thank you for sharing your experience! Dang...
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Old 09-16-2017, 02:44 PM   #4
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Glad you ok, you did a great job!
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Old 09-16-2017, 03:06 PM   #5
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Very sorry to hear this Dana but I happy to know you are undamaged.
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Old 09-16-2017, 04:10 PM   #6
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You can second guess all you want and it's easy to do after the fact. You have to think like it was just in the moment it happened cause that was when it counted. Any other choice could have had a worse outcome, you'll never know.
What you do know is that you survived the choice you made without a scratch and that is huge!
Objects can be replaced, human life.....not so much.
Well done to keep flying the aircraft till it stopped and not becoming a statistic.
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Old 09-16-2017, 07:00 PM   #7
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Dana,
My Dad (a WWII P-40/P-47 fighter pilot) told me many years ago that any landing you can walk away from is a good landing. I think you have proved him right. I'm sure sorry for what has happened to you but so thankful that you could tell us about it.

I have a saying on my wall that says:

"Man is such a fragile vehicle for his dreams."

We know the risks but continue to fulfill our dreams, sometimes at great expense. I applaud not only you but all on this forum for what they have been able to accomplish as they have built and repaired the airplanes of their dreams.

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Old 09-16-2017, 07:57 PM   #8
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Glad you're ok. The airplane can be repaired.
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Old 09-16-2017, 08:22 PM   #9
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I'll offer another sincere "well done". Any emergency off field landing that leaves an unhurt pilot is something to be proud of. You can always replace an airplane.
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Old 09-16-2017, 11:53 PM   #10
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Dana, vert sorry to hear about your incident, something we all dread as we fly along in our beloved airplanes.
Pleased you are OK though and live to fly again!
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Old 09-17-2017, 02:34 AM   #11
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So sorry for the crash. I rejoice with you that you were not hurt. You did a good job. Give yourself a pat on the back.
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Old 09-17-2017, 03:28 AM   #12
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Glad your OK, never look back and second guess yourself. You did your best with what you had to work with, and the fact your ok said loud and clear you did a great job!
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Old 09-17-2017, 04:00 AM   #13
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Durn, glad your ok.
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Old 09-17-2017, 09:01 PM   #14
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Thanks for taking the time to write up a report of your incident. Sounds like you did a great job, glad you're safe and uninjured.
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Old 09-17-2017, 09:20 PM   #15
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A well deserved, ataboy !
Glad to see that you are okay. Sorry to hear about your Starduster...
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Old 09-17-2017, 10:02 PM   #16
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Dana, my friend, you have not posted what the cause of your power loss was if in fact you have found what it was, inquiring minds want to know? Dave
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Old 09-18-2017, 01:36 AM   #17
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Oh, sorry... no power loss at all, just lots of smoke that made me fear fire and want to get down NOW. It was an oil leak from a fitting on the oil cooler line, pouring on the hot exhaust pipe.



Got the lower wings off today, hoping to get the top wing off and fuselage back to the cabin tomorrow, then I can figure out how to get it back to Connecticut at my leisure.

Last edited by Dana; 09-19-2017 at 11:20 PM.
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Old 09-18-2017, 01:59 AM   #18
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Glad you're okay. Good thing about these bi-planes is the built in roll cage! In-flight fire is one of an aviators worse nightmares, getting on the ground NOW is the sensible thing to do. Maybe it wouldn't have gotten worse, maybe it would have, who knows.

Only thing for sure is that you are here to talk about it so a good decision in my book. I'm sure you'll second guess all your decisions but don't. You chose a long flat landing area and put her down and walked away, that's all you can ask for. Some might have pressed on and found out the hard way that oil fires burn intensely and fast.
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Old 09-18-2017, 11:52 AM   #19
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Thanks for sharing. Detailed stories like yours add to the store of knowledge that we all keep for moments where the stuff hits the fan.
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:08 PM   #20
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You definitely did the right thing to put her down IMHO. It did look an ideal field to make an emergency landing on, I would have chosen it! If only the grass hadn't been so long.......
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:13 PM   #21
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Agreed. Smoke and fire are deadly and landing no matter what is under you is smart. You made the right call.

I know most of us dont but perhaps we should be safetying these fittings?
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:21 PM   #22
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ouch. glad to hear you are ok and ill also add that you made the right choice. these little biplanes sure are strong little critters...... well done.
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:28 PM   #23
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Dang! No way to see that at altitude! I would have picked it too. Not much of a choice in my mind.. we lost one of our pilots landing a T6 on a road. Hit a concrete drainage abutment... Roads became a secondary choice to fields for me.

You did well..
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Old 09-18-2017, 01:09 PM   #24
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Dana, Sorry this had to happen for you.
The best pilots are defined by the decisions they make, you made the best decision at the time. Well done. Not only did you minimize potential risk to yourself, you opted to not put others at risk, by not landing on the road. You have my respect!
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Old 09-18-2017, 01:31 PM   #25
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Dana, I'm glad you're well. The airplane can be rebuilt. You made the right call and she protected you.


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