Close Forced Landing Caught On Video


Decision making, airmanship and maybe a little luck led to the best possible outcome for a pilot and passenger at an airport in Sydney, Australia. The Cessna 210 had just taken off from Bankstown Airport in Sydney’s southwest corner when it had engine problems. The pilot, Johannes Swanepoel, elected to make the turn back to the airport, but he left the mostly retracted gear up and that might have made the difference. A News 7 helicopter happened to be in the area, heard the Mayday over the radio and managed to video the whole thing from above.

The prop appears to be turning as the 210 drops low over a residential area before barely clearing some hangars and scraping along a taxiway. Neither Swanepoel nor his passenger, identified only as Karin, were hurt. The plane will need some work but it may be reusable. Swanepoel said in an off-camera interview that the plane did brush trees and he wasn’t sure they were going to clear the hangars.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


    • I listened. Didn’t hear anything wrong with her voice. What are you referring to?? The massively bent prop on all three tips suggests there was some power. I think that will have to be reconciled with the pilot’s actions and statements. Fortunately, the plane is intact. If they don’t find any issue, it may be because the carb ice melted away. If there is a carb, that is.

      • The fact that the prop was turning does not mean that the engine was producing any power. It is not a feathering prop. It would windmill unless the engine totally seized. And, if he had carb ice, the Vatican could declare it a miracle since the I(as in INJECTED)O-520 doesn’t HAVE a carburetor.

      • If the engine was making power, the prop tips would have most likely been bent FORWARD. They were bent backward confirming no power.

        • Huh? The prop is moving forward over the ground when it hits, which is what bends the tips BACKWARDS regardless of whether there’s power or not.

          • Incorrect sir, I just picked up a C182 RG where the pilot had nose gear collapse and he added full power and it does bend the tips forward not backwards. I have recovered many airplanes in both tip configurations.

  1. Excellent job maintaining min sink / best glide speed for that power setting. It’s never easy to not pull up when the obstacles start getting close.

    • I share your sentiment, Bob, but remember that min sink and best glide are very different things. In this case, best glide would have been the best bet. Best glide is predicated on max L/D, which to us pilots just means the speed that corresponds to the lowest point of the total drag curve. Min sink is slower, and we usually associate it with best loitering speed, ie: minimum power required. One gives you most distance covered, the other gives you most time in the air.

  2. “…maybe a little luck” , well I think it was a lot of luck ! Apparently he kept flying the plane which is one of the most important things to do.

  3. Wonder if he remembered to pull the prop control all the way out? The video is unclear, but sorta looks to me like the prop may be in flat (takeoff) pitch. I suspect most of us might forget that step in the heat of the moment. I always worry I’d forget unless I had plenty of altitude (i.e. time) to consider it. In any event, good piloting and steel nerves saved their bacon: Good on him!

    • The tips would be bent backwards, unless the plane were somehow moving backwards when the prop hit the ground.

      • Depending on conditions prop tips may indeed be bent forward in a prop strike, such as a power on gear up landing. Accident investigators do consider which direction the prop was bent as an indicative factor in determining if the engine was producing power. If the prop is bent forward it may be good evidence that the engine was producing power. If the prop is bent aft it may or may not be indicative of engine power state based on other factors. If the prop tip speed is, for example, 4 times the ground speed, the greater bending force can be the forward bending screw effect of the prop vs the aft bending force of the ground contact.

      • Incorrect sir, I just picked up a C182 RG where the pilot had nose gear collapse and he added full power and it does bend the tips forward not backwards. I have recovered many airplanes in both tip configurations.

  4. WB john:
    You are right on it. From experience I can vouch for about 10% better glide distance and less sink in a Cessna with the prop at max pitch (NOT! FLAT!!). Kudos to the pilot.

  5. Personally I think the pilots survival was 100% luck. On short final he was committed with no options other than slamming into the building or lucky for him just scraping over it. I am grateful that he got away with it and he and his passengers were unharmed, but this is not IMO an example of ADM to celebrate.

    There was a clear flat grass field he flew right by on his way back to the airport, that is where he should have gone.

    I truly hope people don’t use this video as proof that the turn back is the way to go after an engine failure.

    • Or, maybe his climb angle saved him and it really wasn’t luck at all. I dunno, but I don’t think anyone else does yet. How about we hold off on the negatives?

    • We don’t know what his sight picture was on descent to the airport. I’d bet he thought about that field he passed but thought he could make the airport.

    • Agree completely. If you look at his shadow he barely scraped over those last buildings. He made it work, and he kept his energy up, but it could have gone very badly. I think he was fixated on making the airport and didn’t consider other options.

  6. Any word on WHY the engine failed? Great job on the pilot keeping his head and flying the plane.

  7. hard to tell from the angle but looks to me like he had some residual power to make it that far at 50′ off the ground. He is at roof top height almost from the start of the video and makes it all the way to the airport. Good job nonetheless.

  8. Several years ago a similar situation happened to a friend in a C210 at KFNT. In his his case there was a partial loss of power was due to a baffle breaking off in the muffler, restricting exhaust flow. He was able to make it back to the airport without incident.

  9. Wow. That was close. Why wasn’t he shaking, or did I miss that? “Just routine”, lol.

    Did look like plenty of speed (tailwind??), and already low much of the way.

  10. Superb airmanship and seemingly managed the aircraft’s energy state very effectively. Don’t know if I’d be that calm and collected exiting the aircraft!

  11. Importantly correct about min-sink vs best glide. But there is no single speed to know. First, flaps matter. Second, gear up/down matters. Third, prop windmilling or not matters. Fourth, weight and D.A. matter. And, of course, IAS vs TAS matters. This makes a good argument for AOA on the panel, doesn’t it? Don’t leave the ground without it.