It’s not very often that I both read a news story and know what actually happened. Everytime I do, the news story is so very bad, I wonder why anyone ever reads the news. First, I present you with the text of the article.
PURCELL – A University of Oklahoma flight student and his instructor walked away from an emergency landing in a field north of the Purcell Municipal Airport Tuesday afternoon.
Coy Reed, a flight instructor, and Michael Dow, a junior from Norman, were practicing routine “touch and go” procedures in the Cessna C-182 single-engine plane when they made the emergency landing shortly before noon.
McClain County detectives said Dow was piloting the plane and attempting to gain altitude after practicing emergency procedures at the Purcell airport when the plane stalled, forcing Reed to take control and execute a forced landing.
“They landed in an open field about 1 mile north of the Purcell airport but damages to the plane were minimal,” said Detective David Graham. “They seemed kind of shaken up a bit, which is normal, but they didn’t have any injuries from the landing.”
After the area was secured by McClain County sheriff’s de-puties, the student and instructor were taken back to the Norman campus. OU officials and investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were looking into why the plane’s engine stalled.
Chris Wright, an equipment operator for the college’s flight program, and Glenn Schaumburg, director of aviation, spent Tuesday afternoon looking over the plane’s engine. No official cause of the incident has been released though Schaumburg said the probable cause is a malfunction of one of the plane’s four cylinders. He said a crew will go to the secured plane today and examine it more thoroughly.
“Even if it is the cylinder, it’s absolutely nothing the pilots or the mechanics could have seen,” Schaumburg said. “This is one of those oddball things.”
Schaumburg said the stalled plane was likely between 28 and 30 years old but “isn’t quite near retirement age yet.” Schaumburg said safety mandates require OU planes have their engines routinely replaced as well as pre-takeoff checklists. Schaumburg doesn’t attribute the plane’s malfunction to its age or a lack of safety measures, nor does he believe Reed is to blame for the incident. Schaumburg said Reed was an OU student and was hired by the School of Aviation “a year or two ago.”
“What I can say about the pilot is that he did an absolutely excellent job. He went through the emergency checklist and when that didn’t work out he found that convenient field to land in,” Schaumburg said.
This story is so wrong that I can’t even begin to guess at where they got these ideas. First, the story claims that the aircraft is a “Cessna 182”. This was actually even more amusing in the print article, because it had a picture of the aircraft in the field. You don’t have to know much about airplanes to know that a Cessna 182 is a high-wing airplane. The plane was actually a Piper Cherokee, a low-wing airplane with absolutely no similarity to a Cessna 182. I cannot even begin to guess how the reporter arrived at the aircraft being a C-182. Not only does OU not have any Cessna 182’s, but it’s not a plane that’s generally used for training by anyone.
As for what actually happened: What actually happened was that after a routine simulation of an engine failure, the student applied full power for a go-around. At this rather inopportune moment, the engine decided to break a valve and bend a pushrod. The engine was then effectively running on three cylinders and was running so poorly, that they elected to go ahead and make the simulated forced landing an actual forced landing.
You’ll notice that at no point did the aircraft stall. This doesn’t stop the reporter from claiming, “…Dow was piloting the plane and attempting to gain altitude after practicing emergency procedures at the Purcell airport when the plane stalled..”
And there are all kinds of other things that I don’t understand at all. Like what does this sentence mean? “Schaumburg said safety mandates require OU planes have their engines routinely replaced as well as pre-takeoff checklists.”
Safety mandates and pre-takeoff checklists require OU planes have their engines routinely replaced?
Overall, the student and instructor did a good job. As Dale likes to say, “Doors opened, people got out.” And the airplane is perfectly fine, though they’ll probably have to take it apart to get it out of there.
These things happen. A couple months ago, one of our instructors was flying one of our aircraft when the exact same thing happened– stuck valve and bent pushrod. But instead of putting it down in a field, he used what minimal power was available to get it back to the airport, which wasn’t very far.