You Don't See An Aircraft Accident Every Day, But When You Do, You Start Thinking

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Pablo Edronkin

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Survival situations test us all, even when you have to be a witness with no possibility of doing anything about the events unfolding, like when a plane has to perform an emergency landing knowing that people onboard may end being hurt.

Some months ago I was at San Fernando International Airport (SADF,) just north of Buenos Aires City. This installation is the one with the most dense air traffic in Argentina; it is a general and business aviation airport where you see all kinds of neat, private aircraft, but its downside is that you often have to wait a lot while taxiing to the runways and before landing. Sometimes take place for other reasons.

It was the winter of 2008 and I was preparing a flying session on the LV-MLF simulator located near the threshold of runway 23, of course, in an office inside hangar. Since I designed the software integration and several components of the machine and it was still new, I was acting as the first flight instructor of it; we were about to simulate a flight in a B350, a nice executive transport plane when someone entered the room and said "There is a Beechcraft with a landing emergency."

We went out and reached the platform, where amount the various planes there a small group of people had gathered, Justin time to see a plane very similar to the B350 - it was a smaller, older version of the same machine - attempting a touch-and-go; this is something you do to try to shake your front landing gear leg so that it falls and locks into its landing position. That was exactly what its pilots were attempting to do but it was noticeable that the front wheel was halfway between its upper and lower positions. The Beech then left the area for a couple of minutes, evidently so that its commander would be able to take a decision, and then the machine came.

As all the people around the airport was witnessing the event, the plane made a very soft, slow landing using its front wheels, with its two turboprops shut down. The crew held its nose up as much as they could, and then it tipped to the front and after about a hundred and fifty metres, it stopped. The rear door opened and several people came rapidly as the firemen reached the machine and covered it with foam.

The plane was carrying a polo team and its crew, no one - luckily - was hurt in the accident. The plane suffered major structural damage: Its turbines, propellers, landing gear and fuselage had to be repaired. Since it is a pressurised plane, bumps and dents in its belly and nose, like it suffered require a lot of work and precision repairs. The airport was closed for a couple of hours until investigators came to the scene and then the plane was removed from the runway.

You can see in the video below the whole crash landing sequence. The pilots really did an excellent job saving everything that could be saved; all the occupants survived. I watched it almost from the front: the plane landed on R05 and I about two hundred meters from the threshold of R23, its opposite, and it was an eerie thing to watch because as a pilot you know what could happen once they touch down. It is not just a matter of reaching the runway; in fact, that's the most dangerous part of such a procedure.

There was absolute silence and no panic at the airport, possibly because most people there are pilots, mechanics and other persons that are involved with aircraft all the time, but no one was of course, joking or saying anything out of placer, recriminatory to the pilots or speculative as to the nature or causes of the malfunction that caused the incident.

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