When YouTube Clickbait Actually Has Value


Andy Warhol famously remarked in the 1960s that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” What a failure of imagination. He simply couldn’t foresee the advent of cellphone cameras, GoPros and the vast digital sewage processing plant otherwise known as YouTube. Once upon a time, home movies were just that, but easy access to all the world’s eyeballs now means that anyone—and I mean anyone—can produce their own reality show and probably attract an audience of viewers too busy to actually attend train wrecks in person.

In that spirit, a friend of mine sent me the link to the YouTube video below knowing full well that like the cat after the nip, I would refuse comment on it until it just got to be too much. So here we are. Someone labeled it the Kardashians Go Flying and if you get the reference, you’ve been dragged far enough away from the lip of the crater to have your knees dangling in the abyss of cultural abasement.  

But certainly, there’s redeeming value in everything, right? Usually, including this video that details the emergency engine-out landing of a Cessna T210 in Utah last August. To save you an overdose of irritation, I recommend confining your attention to the segment between 6:30 and about 8:00 on the video. The setup is this: The family was on an outing and having flown through a scenic canyon, the engine quit for unknown reasons, or appears to have. Right off the nose were three possible landing choices: an open field dotted with widely spaced trees, a beach on a lake and the lake itself.

In the comments, the pilot is lauded for steely eyed nerves and uncommon skill. And while it’s not my intention—or place—to denigrate the pilot’s judgment and actions, what the video shows is how not to handle an emergency engine-out approach. As an inveterate reader of accident reports, the scenario here is not so much common as not rare. Many engine-out situations end badly because the pilot gets too slow and even though a suitable landing site is available, a stall-mush or stall-spin intervenes to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

This video is instructive for getting that on the tape, so to speak. The point of power loss is indeterminate but it may be around 6:50 when the gear horn comes alive. The suitable landing field is well positioned just off the nose and although it’s hard to determine from the camera position, it’s possible that the airplane appeared to be a little low to make the field. And that may explain what happens next.

During the glide to the field, I’m sure you have the same reaction I do. The nose is too high, as though possibly trying to stretch the glide. That’s confirmed by the intermittent and then steady stall horn. It’s hard to judge the altitude, but I’d guess the horn is on steady at 50 feet or so. I’d further guess that the airplane stalled in from about that altitude and judging by the condition of the wreckage—photos here—the impact was very near the edge of the survivable envelope. All of the occupants were injured, two seriously.

The photos also show that the field was quite large and if not smooth, not cratered or bouldered, either. The T210’s POH recommends an 80-knot approach speed for emergency landings and gear up if the terrain is soft or rough. In this case, I wouldn’t second-guess the gear choice—the pilot put it down—but the too-slow speed isn’t a style choice. Not stalling is a survival choice. And don’t forget this: If you’re fixating on a landing spot that looks iffy, look around for others. In this case, the lake would have been a highly survivable option.

If there’s value here, and I think there is, it’s to tantalizingly wonder if the T210 pilot had seen a video like this before the fact, would it have made a difference? For a few megs of server space and 90 seconds of viewing time, I think it’s worth the chance. Something for all of us to ponder.

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  1. The interesting part is the pilot’s perceptual attributions implying that the experience was actually good because his God intervened. That interpretation is interesting because objectively, if there was a God intervention, wouldn’t there NOT have been a crash?

    • It reinforces that God is good and man is stupid. Thank goodness it did not catch fire after the crash ( oh wait, you’d need to have fuel on board for that to happen).

  2. Well, in the end, if you don’t have the discipline to keep the nose down, then God is your only hope…

    • Theology being above my pay grade, it would seem like God should be left out of these kinds of things. But if I were to venture into theology my guess would be that the Shuttle Challenger 7 were just as deserving of divine intervention as Shad and his hapless passengers.

      Armchair quarterbacking along with some off airport professional operational experience of my own, had the airplane been flown all the way into the crash, gear down using a nose high/soft field technique, they might have gotten by with no injuries and less damage. God just may have come out of that scenario smelling like a rose instead of just “your only hope”.

  3. Some other observations
    Both in front seats did not have their shoulder restraint on. Back seats just have lap belts. The guy in copilot seat was very badly injured by hitting his head as well as many other injuries.
    The pilot posted a hospital bed video where he explained that he did not have an engine out put that he couldn’t generate more than about 20 inches of manifold pressure at around 10,000 ft. It is entirely possible that this was a turbo failure not an engine failure. He had gear down and flaps when this occurred. If this is true he could have put up the gear and flown down the valley back to his airport.

    Huge efforts and costs were incurred in flying out and treating the injured. All of which could have easily been avoided if this guy had landed on this excellent upsloping emergency landing site or if he understood the systems of his plane.

  4. Label me insensitive, with 100% hindsight or whatever, but in my book this is the perfect way NOT to do a deadstick landing. I’ve done a number of those (for training and in controlled conditions), and the first and last thing that’s drilled into your brain is “airspeed, airspeed, airspeed”.
    If you want to nitpick the gear was a mistake, and who knows what flap setting he chose, perhaps full? But even so, making the field didn’t seem to be a problem.

  5. Firstly Paul – great description of YouTube at the beginning of your article :).
    Very interesting article and indeed the video showed the extent of rah-rah going in in that confined place – how could the pilot not have been distracted!
    As for going that long with the stall warning hooting away – misplaced faith amongst over things

  6. Here’s the inside scoop. God did intervene as God usually always does. God told the pilot to put down the gear, but, the pilot being a human being, frail by nature chose not to listen to God and go it on his own, kind of like Eve. All God can do is suggest, the rest is up to whom ever he (yes, God is a man) is suggesting to. Listening, or, not listening to God always has consequences. It’s always your choice. In this case the dude screwed up. He should have listened to God and the consequences probably would not be as severe.

    • I never would have guessed that it would take the AvWeb blog comments section, for me to learn that supreme beings possess gender.

  7. God DID have a hand, providing a field, a beach, and a lake; but the pilot had to do the airwork – and everyone was lucky his airwork did not result in less favorable consequences.

    • It reminds me of the story about when floodwaters were rising in a small town. Police went door to door to urge everyone to evacuate, but one resident told the cop, “I’ll stay – God will save me.”

      The waters rose up and covered the streets. A rescue boat came by to pick up any stragglers but, again, the one man said no, “God will save me.”

      The waters rose further. The man climbed up onto the roof of his house. A helicopter was dispatched to pluck him to safety. But the man waved off the chopper, shouting “God will save me.”

      The waters rose further and the man drowned. In the afterlife he confronted God. “I’ve been a good and faithful servant my whole life – why did you not save me?”

      God replied, “What do you mean? I sent the police, a boat, and a helicopter.”

  8. If you really want to suffer, check out https://youtu.be/PMJSJSuafCA during which the 490-hour pilot of a 205 full of jumpers maintains climb attitude after the engine audibly loses power on climb out, gets the stall warning going, then makes a 45 degree banked turn with the stall warning howling. He manages to roll wings level just in time, puts it down in a field, and it flips on soft ground. 1 minor injury. I suspect that the jumpers’ helmets helped. The NTSB report (ERA15LA071) explains the mechanical failure, but doesn’t quite capture the sheer dumb luck.

  9. My 02 cents

    1) Wear the freaking shoulder belts ! They will save your face and possibly your life

    2) The majority of engine failures are caused by the actions or inactions of the pilot. The best way to deal with an engine failure is to not have the engine fail in the first place or to restore power. That requires being able to action the engine failure cause check quickly and completely when under pressure which means practicing the drills.

    3) Further to point 2 if it was a turbo failure the engine was almost certainly guzzling oil in the last few flights giving the pilot a chance to find the issue and resolve it before the engine failed. Furthermore an accurate assessment of the issue should have allowed him to use the remaining engine power to maintain level flight or at worse set up a forced approach to the best area.

    4) When I worked as a flying instructor my flying club required every renter pilot to do an annual check ride. Over a 2 year period only one of the recreational pilots I checked out was able to fly an acceptable forced approach, and he was a very experienced glider pilot. All the others were bad to terrible including my having to take control to avoid the aircraft departing from controlled flight or missing the field entirely.

    The inconvenient fact is that this poorly handled emergency is IMHO a reflection on the general low skill levels of recreational pilots. Real world and practicable ways to address this issue is too big a subject to address in this post but perhaps is worthy of an article by Paul…..

  10. Training, training, training! I agree, many GA and recreational pilots do not practice engine failures to a landing, let alone any of the other possible emergency scenarios. The little bit of flying they might do is a cause for very rusty stick and rudder skills. During flight reviews I kindly provide the student unexpected engine failures during various phases of flight. Even in a very controlled environment the out come is mostly ugly. A great way to practice is idle approaches abeam the numbers, traffic permitting. Drag management is key using gear, flaps and even a slip if needed. Pick a touch down point and see how close you can come to land on it. As a professional pilot I am fortunate to fly on a regular basis, but also go through an intensive recurrent training program very nine months. The idea that a flight review every two years will bring you up to speed is ludicrous. I highly recommend the FAA Wings programs, as a continual way to stay current. Do a phase each year, which equals to an hour long session with a CFI every four months. The free online courses are a terrific way to stay in the books and keep your brain in the game. Yes, even some airline pilots participate in the Wings program. After 35 years of flying I am still learning. As on examiner told me early on: “I am signing your temporary license today! It is a license to learn. Congratulations.”

    Now go fly your airplane like a glider and see if you can nail your touch down point every time. Remember though, at idle the engine is still producing a bit of thrust. When it actually quits, it will not glide nearly as well.
    Good luck, safe landings!

    • Thank you, Martin G., for making the last comment. I have often had a check pilot pull the throttle back during a flight review to simulate an engine failure. But, when it actually happened for real, I was amazed at how much faster the plane was descending. The windmilling prop also produced a buffet that felt like the plane was stalling, so I kept the nose down to avoid a stall. Wrong perception, but right result. In my case, I had sufficient altitude to glide to a runway and managed to put the plane down with no other damage than soiled seats.

      I don’t advocate actually killing the engine to see if you can perform a forced landing, but it would definitely open your eyes about how the plane will actually perform. In practice, just be very conservative in picking your landing spot. I was lucky that an airport was nearby. You may not be.

  11. Three chooses is bull shit. Never put on in the water the aircraft can not be evacuated quick enough if occupants are injured. A shore line sand bar with the gear up. Well by put them down anyway. The rough field was still the best but the pilot never set up an approach and stalled the plane to high off the terrain. At least try to establish glide speed. FLY the plane, FLY the plane. FLY the plane.
    They started out on this scenic flight over the land and water way to low never giving themselves a way out if an emergency came up.
    A C210 is a sow with six seats filled even not at gross.

  12. As a participant in a crash that burned me within an inch of my life I have another perspective on God/crashes. People told me for a long time that God must have been watching over me. My response was always “why didn’t he watch over my two pilot friends who didn’t make it?”.

  13. I am by no means questioning what happened here, but one thing I noticed if you pause the video during the approach just before impact you will see the pilot does not have his hand on the throttle and it kind of looks like it’s not firewalled? I don’t know for certain it could be the curved camera lens causings this appearance. I am happy to hear all survived.

  14. I wonder if it was fuel starvation. Around 4:36 the video shows the fuel gauges and there appears to be roughly 10 gallons on the right and 20 gallons on the left. After the passenger points this out with what appears to be a questioning gesture, the pilot switches to the left, fullest tank. Seems a bit questionable to take off with only 30 gallons in a 210. As the camera pans around during takeoff, the mountains look to be some distance away, not sure how far 20-30 gallons would take a 210.

  15. Having practiced many times a loss of power via pulling the throttle back to idle, I thought I was prepared enough to handle a total loss of power. However, when the real deal happens in a complex airplane, the reality of total loss of thrust with a wind-milling prop compared to all the common practice is quite a shock.

    The descent profile in an attempt to maintain best glide speed is extremely steep. Far steeper than can be replicated in practice emergencies. Depending on throttle position and airplane manufacture, you also have not only a stall warning blaring when you get too slow but the gear horn as well while the gear is still in the wells. These noises are really amplified when the engine truly goes silent vs this 210 with the engine still running.

    It makes an interesting cocktail of sensations as the emergency progresses. The sense of denial is astounding, paralyzing at first. Once that is overcome, the next sensation for me was the initial chirp of the stall warning and how loud it now was. I already knew I was slowing down by sound and control feel. However, even when a thought I had really pushed the nose down enough, within seconds I learned quickly…that was not enough. Having pushed the nose down a second time with a real heavy, fast, and long throw push, I had to do my best to trim for that much nose low attitude required, at the same time while searching for a suitable landing site. I was so busy and also dealing with the amazement of how nose low I had to be just to maintain something within 20 mph of published best glide speed that flying the airplane took a lot of attention away from looking for a field to land in.

    Since I was flying still way short of best glide speed but well beyond stall speed, I had to make a decision of two potential landing sites based on a descent angle I have never seen before. One was much better than the other. But, it was very uncertain I would make the good one based on this new descent profile. If this was a practice engine out with idling engine, I would have had the good field made easily.

    It was extremely hard to turn away from the good field ( the airport perimeter) and aim for the poorer landing site that was at least attainable from my present glide path. Now the question is when to put down the flaps…and make the decision gear down or gear up. And from the several attempts at a restart, the throttle was now positioned at idle adding the gear horn to the atmosphere. Since I saw what appeared as grass, I elected to put the gear down. The amount of forward yoke required as the gear came down now made me very thankful I took the lousy but still reachable field. Now I wondered if I would have enough elevator authority to flare. The grass turned out to be about 3-4 ft tall. As I flared with a mighty pull (through all the down trim pressure) that went to the up elevator stop, the main gear went into the tops of the grass, slowing me down way faster than expected, with a hit hard on all three. I rolled about 50 feet and hit a ditch perpendicular to my path the tall grass was hiding. The nose gear was sheared off and over I went in a split second on my back, stopping instantly.

    This happened several years ago. This particular week, I was the third of three Bonanza crashes due to total power loss. I was the only non-fatal. I am a praying man. And I have seen prayers answered many, many times. God understands airplanes very well including good pilot training. I can emphatically say, His voice said” fly the airplane”. That very loud command clearly over-riding all noise, confusion, headset radio background chatter, etc, instantly snapping me out of my paralyzing denial funk. Many might try to make the claim my excellent training supplied that voice. If you are a praying person, you will know God’s Voice. His Voice is unmistakable.

    Secondly, this airplane had only lap belts on a non adjustable seat. By all rights, and the law of physics, my head should have been buried into the panel with my upper torso shoved into the throw over yoke. My legs did hit the bottom of the panel bruising them just above the knee. I suffered a cut to the top of my head from the speaker grille when it came loose. A lost my glasses and my cell phone from my pocket from the sudden stop and being flipped over. The most painful and scary part after I stopped was how to get out of the lap belt and not break my neck and/or shoulder when hitting the ceiling. No matter how I tried to stretch, I could not reach the ceiling with the lap belt holding me upside down. So, I knew I was going to fall the last 12 inches directly on my head. I did not get hurt but it was another hard, awkward, hit for my body. Next, I had to figure how to get out of the airplane. The top of the cabin was slightly crushed preventing me from opening the door. So, I had to crawl to the back of the airplane and try to read upside down how to open the rear side windows. Once a figured that out and pulled the pin, I kicked out the window and crawled out. Total time of the event from start to finish was estimated to be about 35 seconds. I was at 3,500 feet when the engine quit making noise. I could see the airport.

    Lastly, the first responder was a member of the local helo/medivac team who had just left the hangar and was walking to his car. He heard the engine quit, saw the entire event, lost sight of me in the tall grass until he saw the tail go over and then disappear again. I could not believe, he was standing there in front of me as soon as I got out of the airplane. Since I had lost my glasses, he had to get fairly close to me for me to recognize him as someone I knew.

    At the time of the accident, I had 400 hours TT and 1.5 hours in a Bonanza. I had to fly between a tree line and a power pole going to a shed, while still clearing a 6 foot fence that looked to be not a whole lot larger than my wingspan, to plop down in that tall grass. That was not my extraordinary skill combined with a lot of time in type. God snapped me out of my denial, helped me through the trees, lines, and fence. And made sure I did not become implanted into the panel and the yoke. There was no fire. I don’t remember doing it but I did cut the mixture and ignition before touchdown. My total distance from touchdown to inverted stop about 80 feet from and estimated touchdown of 50-60mph. I walked away, the airplane never flew again. Yes, God intervened.

    I did not get spared the fright, the denial, the new sensations, the sudden stop. I flew again about a week later. It was a very scary initial flight to overcome what I now know as…total, abject fear. I do not want to experience that kind of fear again. It took me several hours to get comfortable again in an airplane. 10 years later, I own a Bonanza. However, for me, there is no question God intervened to allow me to perhaps tell this story as an encouragement and/ or education for someone else.

    If faced with this situation again, I would have open the cabin door, and really think twice about putting down the gear in an off airport landing. Under normal pattern power or even idle power, the pitch change in a Bonanza is noticeable requiring some nose up trim but certainly not dramatic. But after dealing with the reality of how far one must push the nose over to maintain flying speed with all loss of power from cruise, I was unprepared for the amount the second push forward required close to the ground when the gear was on its way down followed with the quick need for a mighty heave for the flare. I never used any flaps. The airplane was already coming down fast and I had all I could to flare.

    • Jim, I would normally say you are very long winded, however, I have never just scanned over any of your posts. The content of your posts are always substantial and informative. Yes… there is a God… been there…

  16. I tell all my students that in a retractable gear airplane an off runway forced approach is always gear up. The instant the engine fails the insurance company just bought the airplane.

  17. A lot of the debate talks about how the aircraft was being flown. Engines stop suddenly (it did here) for a large part of the flight the aircraft was flying somewhere engine failure would kill. Why were the passengers not made aware of this (children). If you fly a single engined aircraft anywhere where an engine failure means almost certain death everyone on board should be aware.