I witnessed an accident today in El Paso

Posted on 14. Apr, 2009 by in Featured

While holding short of runway 26 left, waiting to take off; it reminded me how fast things can go wrong in aviation. Just because the vast majority of pilots are good at what they do does not mean it is not inherently dangerous.

I was sitting in the cockpit waiting for an Aero Commander 112 or 114 (I believe), to land. The wind was 90 degrees out and gusting, a pretty nasty cross wind. The tower was calling gusts up to 15 the wind sock showed 20 at the approach end; that’s a lot of cross wind for a small aircraft. The pilot flew a nice approach, fast, but that would be normal for a big cross wind. He touched down and immediately I noticed no aileron into the wind; within one to two seconds the left wing lifted and brought the left main mount (wheel assembly) off of the runway. The angle of bank was so severe both the Captain and I thought he dragged the right wing tip. With the aircraft in approximately 20 degrees angle of bank to the right and only the nose and right landing gear making contact with the runway, the aircraft swerved hard left departing the side of the runway.

I was certain it would flip and tear open a wing spilling fuel, especially when it went into a ditch next to the runway. However once pointed into the wind (90 out from runway heading) the wing came back down. I suspect it had slowed enough to stop flying.

The aircraft then came to rest still upright between the runway and a parallel taxi-way. A disaster narrowly missed. After we had the runway checked and the emergency crews responded we were on our way with a poignant reminder that just because you are on the ground doesn’t mean the wing is no longer flying. Aileron into the wind!

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