Fly the airplane! Whatever happens, fly the airplane! That's what CFIs drill into us from our first run-up. CFI Alan Vangee got a chance to practice what he preaches when a Piper Cadet landed on top of the Cessna 152 in which he was instructing on Saturday, December 11. As AVweb reported, he guided the newfangled "Cess-per" to the ground with no loss of life, no injuries, no fire and only minimal damage to both airplanes. If there's a "Nerves of Steel" award he should get it. Since as far as we can tell, Alan has logged the most time in a 152 carrying another airplane piggyback, AVweb's Joe Godfrey asked him for some details about the event. Don't miss this special Profile.
First of all, congratulations on getting down safely. What was that last 200 feet like?
We were about a hundred and fifty feet from touchdown and to have a landing gear come through your windshield and the windshield come flying into your lap is kind of a strange sensation. The airplane on top didn't really push us down that much but the extra weight all of a sudden did make the aircraft considerably heavier. Both my student and myself figured it was over. We didn't see any way to get the airplane down.
Did you instinctively add power? Or reduce power? Lower the nose?
We already had the power almost to idle. My student was practicing short field landings and at the time of impact I think we had the power almost off. Jay, who was on top, claims he didn't know what he hit and gave it full power and attempted to go around. Nothing happened because his tail was sitting on ours so he couldn't lower his tail to climb. I think what did happen as a result of his adding power is that it extended the distance before we impacted, which allowed us to avoid the blacktop area. So it worked out okay.
What do you guess your vertical speed to be at impact?
I have no idea. We did glide further than we would have by ourselves because we were set up for a short field landing. We swerved slightly to the left, on purpose, to avoid the blacktop, because I was concerned about sparks and fire. I just wasn't sure how much damage we were going to do. I figured the grass area would be better from that respect and it did work out better. We only went three or four inches into the sand. We traveled less than a hundred feet after we hit the ground. It was almost like a normal soft field landing in sand.
How much damage was there to the airplanes?
The one on top had very little damage. Just a few marks, really. They lifted it off very carefully and they were able to fly it out the next day.
The one on the bottom, the left flap was badly damaged. When we landed, the airplane on top twisted so the scissor part of his nose gear put a few dents in the right front leading edge of our wing. Other than that it's not in too bad a shape. The parts are off and they've ordered new ones and hopefully it'll be flying again in a couple of weeks.
How close was the upper airplane's prop to your face?
His nose gear was right against the windshield, so I'd say about 18 inches.
And his prop was still spinning?
It was spinning when we touched down. And neither prop got a mark of any kind.
What happened after touchdown?
Jay says he thought he had landed himself but he was still too high. He still didn't see our airplane. Then he shut down and climbed down.
What was the first thing you said?
Jay said, "I'm glad to see you're alright." I was concerned about fuel leaks and fire but there were no fuel leaks whatsoever. By the time he got down to us we were starting to get out of the airplane.
How soon before you went flying again?
It happened on Saturday and I went out again on Monday.
How's your student doing?
She's doing fine. She was scheduled to do her check ride on Christmas Eve, but we've had some dreary weather here lately and she wanted to do a few more lessons before she took the ride. I think she's scheduled for January 12th now.
She's still gung ho to finish her private?
She seems to be. She's still working on what she needs to practice.
We wish her luck. Congratulations, again, on getting that contraption out of the air in one piece.
Well, you do what you have to do.