Malibu Loses Prop, Landing Successful

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With no prop, no forward visibility and three people in his charge (one of them, his daughter), 7,400-hour pilot Barry Cox landed a 1988 Piper Malibu at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport Thursday after suffering catastrophic engine failure just minutes into his flight. Offering up a late nomination for understatement of the year, "It was exciting," Cox told the Aspen Times. The incident unfolded around 10 a.m., about ten minutes into the flight and only 147 hours after the Malibu's Continental had been remanufactured. Cox had piloted the Malibu out of Aspen-Pitkin to 16,000 feet and about eight miles north of the airport. It was then and there that oil suddenly turned the windshield an opaque brown, a sight that was followed by a loud sound that likely signified the propeller's departure from the aircraft. Cox radioed the Aspen tower to inform them of his situation and impending return before offering calming words to his frightened daughter, "I was just saying, 'We're OK, we can glide from here and make it.'"

Cox told the newspaper that he managed to line up intentionally high and fast, waiting to lower the gear, and landed before the tower-summoned fire department and police arrived. Cox won handshakes from those present on the ground and accolades from at least one witness who told the paper the landing was "one of the more tremendous things I've seen."