"I'm lucky enough to have survived a forced landing at night; and stupid enough to have had to. At pattern altitude approaching an airport by a medium-sized town; called to report five miles out, and...silence. And utter disbelief. I'll get this out of the way - I ran out of fuel. Based on both my calculations and the gauges (no, I didn't solely rely on them), I shouldn't have, but that's moot (most likely I erred with how much fuel I thought I had at departure, in spite of dipping the tanks, but to come anywhere close at night is really bad piloting). It was the hardest thing I've ever done, but I turned away from the lights of the town and into the pitch darkness. I looked for the darkest patch, and at about 20 feet saw I was heading straight for a grove of trees. Had time to swerve around that and landed and, much to my surprise, rolled out smoothly. Turns out it was a field of very low sorghum; at the last minute I hit a rut that bent the nose gear, but my passenger and I were scared poopless but otherwise fine. I still shake when I think about it (two years ago). I'll admit that after 30-some years of incident-free flying, I may have gotten complacent; running out of fuel is about the most shameful thing a pilot can do (no lectures needed, believe me - I've castigated myself without end). At daylight, I saw all that we could have smashed into (tree lines, power lines, irrigation equipment, high corn crops) and couldn't believe our luck. I will say, though, that practicing engine-out procedures - especially getting the nose down and hitting best glide, and repeating "fly it all the way down" to yourself - also saved our hides. My mantra had always been that old saw, "The superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid having to use his superior skills." But we're fallible humans flying fallible machines, so practice!"
- Top Poster
- Posts: 7592
- Joined: Tue Jan 18, 2011 4:47 pm
- Location: Making aviation exhausting, everywhere
Ensign Ricky: Aw, crap.