Aircraft Recovery - Air Creation Emergency Landing

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After an engine failure on 9-5-09 at 4PM, I made an emergency landing in the forest. Ended up 30 feet up in a tree in the middle of nowhere. Managed to get out of the tree, with my cell phone and GPS got a position and found my way out of the woods to a logging road. The next day I had JBI Helicopter Services of Pembroke NH retrieve the aircraft.

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26 Comments

  • Jan Ferreira
    by Jan Ferreira 2 years ago
    Thanks for sharing. How much did this recovery cost you?
  • Richard Pierce
    by Richard Pierce 2 years ago
    The helicopter and crew I got out their the next day, the Sunday before Labor Day - with a crew of 4 - 3 on the ground, 1 in the helio - It was a mile into the woods, I documented my coordinates when I was still up in the tree - we got there by GPS - airlifted a ladder in - They drove from an hour away, plus the helio - it took about 3 hours to recover it - that part cost about $3600 - I was expecting it to be triple that, so I was happy - all told.......... it was a $20K deal - no insurance for float trikes
  • white eagle
    by white eagle 2 years ago
    Richard sad about your trike and glad you were unhurt. Pretty incredible footage. Would you be so kind to put up a more detailed blog . Id be interested any your choices your fears, weather you had or thought to use a brs . Making a tree landing sometimes it works sometimes not. How rough was it. Good for everyones learning thanks for putting this up?
  • Michael Kocot
    by Michael Kocot 2 years ago
    Wow, Glad you are OK. I also would like to know more. Did you go straight in or try to stall at the top of the tree? Please tell us more. Thanks for sharing.
  • Richard Pierce
    by Richard Pierce 2 years ago
    Aircraft Incident on Saturday September 5th 2009

    My Air Creation trike was being repaired at Lake Attitash in Amesbury. It was a routine flight from Lake Attitash to Winnipesaukee, my altitude was 2000 ft. at that time I had over 1000 hours experience as pilot in command, now I have about 1400. I have in the past experienced two engine failures before and one crash, (another story),. I am on a constant vigil when I fly looking for my emergency landing areas, because I know, from experience that engines fail. I thought I knew the direction of the wind and its strength. An hour into the flight my engine just quit, sputtered out and died 17 miles from Winnipesaukee. I was over a wilderness area, apparently only known to hunters, I had my emergency landing area all picked out and turned West to reach it. To my surprise the wind changed and was much stronger coming from the West, my ground speed dropped to 27 knots, and I knew that I was not going to make it. It was at that moment that I realized that I had to land in the middle of a dense forest in the middle of nowhere. This is a scenario I have only imagined in my worst nightmares. Heading west, I could see the ground elevation rising with some nasty and solid looking Pine Trees, I turned North and kept turning until I was going South, this was a mixed blessing, the ground elevation was going down which gave me a longer distance to glide, but I was gliding with a tailwind which would make the landing that much more violent. After gliding as far as I could go I turned into the wind to slow the impact.

    I find it fascinating the choices we find ourselves making. I had already come to grips with the fact that I was going to crash in a dense forest in the middle of nowhere, but now I find myself carefully choosing which trees I am going to crash into, what kind of a choice is that?

    So, with my options rapidly dissolving, choices became quite limited and my landing site was made, into the tree canopy.

    I know emergency landing procedures, and we have all heard how to crash land in a forest. There is no way to ever practice that, obviously. We all hope we will never be faced with that, but here it was. Besides the fact that I was still flying the aircraft, my head was spinning, will I die? Will I break bones? Will I be paralyzed? This was all going thru my head, yet I needed to keep flying the aircraft as long as I could.

    So, in proper procedure, heading into the wind, I pushed my wing up and tried to stall the aircraft as I began to brush the treetops. Then it dipped into the forest. The idea is to find trees that look like they would bend, stall the aircraft between two of those trees. The wings will take the hit and the aircraft will settle into the tree canopy. It worked. Although I do remember some of it, mostly in was just a blur and violent. After I stopped moving, I took bodily inventory and I realized I was not skewered, no broken bones I was aware of although it felt like I was kicked in the ribs, and apparently just cuts and bruises. I wouldn’t know about the two hand surgeries until later.

    The only thing holding me in the aircraft was my safety harness, I was at a 45 degree angle, 30 feet off the ground, wedged up in the trees, alone, in the middle of nowhere. My phone still worked as well as my GPS. While still strapped in I called Pat, my aircraft go-to guy and told him my scenario, I gave him my Latitude and Longitude from my GPS. Realizing that the plane may be slipping I hung up and had to figure out how to get on the ground. I took my phone and GPS and Ipod(what the hell) and studied how to get down. Now in normal circumstances, if I had looked at climbing down this tree, I would not have done it, it was nuts. However, there was no alternative way down. Halfway down there were no branches, I made my way down thru the dead branches and ended up bear hugging the tree the rest of the way down.

    Now I called Pat back, having been spun around I had no idea which way to go. Pat looked up my location on his GPS and gave me a set of coordinates to head towards, which I plugged into my GPS. Lynette was an hour away so he called her and gave her directions to the coordinates I was heading to. I was a little less than a mile from the nearest logging road. The problem I encountered is that my GPS is not designed for walking, the device does not know which direction the unit itself is facing, it only knows the direction the unit is going, in large increments. So as I started making my way thru the forest, after about 1000 feet my GPS decides to point the opposite direction, it doesn't register a move until you have moved quite a bit. I was doing circles in the forest trying to follow my GPS, I have heard all the scenarios of people getting lost in the woods doing circle, but I had a GPS. Anyway, I resorted to my gut instinct, and picked a direction, the fluctuations in the GPS basically settled in that general direction. I knew I would hit a logging road one way or the other, which I eventually did. The GPS had me walk the wrong direction on the road until it decided to point the other way. So I walked for a few miles, never seeing a soul, although I could hear the gunshots of the hunters. It was not long after that when I saw Lynette driving down the road to get me.

    I began flying conventional aircraft in 1972, I started flying trikes in 2000, curiously, I bought a BRS chute at the same time and it was sitting on my garage floor uninstalled. There are very few instances when I would use a BRS chute, I would typically choose to fly the aircraft to the ground, I prefer to have choices. This is one of the few instances where I probably would have used it. I have since installed it. .

    At the time it seemed like one of my worst days, when in fact, it was one of my best. Airplanes can be replaced, it’s not every day that miracles happen.
  • Jan Ferreira
    by Jan Ferreira 2 years ago
    Richard, you left out one small detail. What engine do you have and what made it stop?
  • Richard Pierce
    by Richard Pierce 2 years ago
    Rotax 582 - I have lost my engine 3 times during flight - each was a different reason - In the incident above, that was my new trike, new to me, trike is a 2000, I only had it for 3 weeks but I was experiencing electrical problems, I was getting shocked by the hand throttle - It turns out that at one point the rectifier was mounted under the seat, when I converted it to floats it was getting wet and causing problems - I had that corrected and this engine failure occurred 1 hour into the flight after I picked up the plane after the repair - the new rectifier failed - when we began the repairs, the engine started right up............... That was my third engine failure - The first engine failure occurred 100 hours into a new engine rebuild - the new crank shaft failed - The second engine failure occurred 1 hour after I refueled at a marina with a funky fueling system, it put a large piece of crap in my tank which stuck to the fuel filter at the bottom of the tank, it didn't stop the fuel flow completely, but enough to choke the power. So......... while I fly floats and I have lots of landing areas where I live, Lakes Region NH, I do not trust my engine completely, it is not a matter of IF you will lose your engine, it is a matter of WHEN you will lose your engine, you can't outrun statistics - With a few minor exceptions, I will not fly anywhere where I can't make to a safe landing area. Altitude is your friend - I routinely shut my engine off miles from home so I can practice hitting a target. I did a video of one of these simulated engine outs that I will post here on trike social
  • Leo Iezzi
    by Leo Iezzi 2 years ago
    Richard,

    Thank you for your post! What an ordeal man!! I had no idea you had experienced this and am so glad it all worked out well all things considered!
    First let me say very well done! Under the circumstances it takes a serious amount of concentration and self control to pull off as well as you did! Well done!

    My wife and I understood from the very day we decided to fly trikes, that the 582, like any other engine can go out at any minute. But, typically, it seems to me the more I read, that it's usually either after an overhaul, or upon modifications.

    Fuel either hand mixed or injected is subject to it's failures as well. Ours, a 582 Blue Head has been very well taken care of. However, it's past it's 300hr TBO by a 100 hours or so. The engine purrs, compression is great! But after this last trip to Santa Paula my wife and I discussed having it overhauled just to comply with the manufacturers recommendation.

    Some of our pilot friends have flown 582's well into 900 hours with no issues what so ever. Still, if for nothing else, I would prefer the peace of mind knowing it has a fresh overhaul.

    What has really stood out for me is the amount of times I have read engines having issues after the overhaul it's self. That concerns me more than anything. At the moment I actually have good confidence in our engine.
    I'm not talking about a complete, lets fly low 50% of the time type of trust. I will never have 100% trust...it's just not in my nature to be that confident in mechanical equipment. But I can say, the engine is well seated at the moment, and it does inspire more confidence than an engine that's just gotten back from the shop per say.

    So my question for you, and other pilots here. If I do decide to overhaul it, do you guys feel having it dynoed is worth the extra cost? Do you guys have that done?

    Leo
  • Tony  Castillo
    by Tony Castillo 2 years ago
    Richard, thanks for sharing! I am glad you found the patch of tree/branches/leaves that held you there and your safe way down!

    I had a similar situation once... many years ago (early 80's) and it was in my Hang Glider.. x-country - lost all lift over forest (no engine out), in a jungle in South America, no cells, no GPS, no radios, no one saw me go down, and I was almost out of cigarettes ... :-( .... and I recall thinking exactly the same as you ... looking at a patch of tree tops in the middle of a jungle in the middle of no-where in the mountains ... and trying to pick the best place to tree-crash!... reading your tale gave me the creeps :-(
  • Richard Pierce
    by Richard Pierce 2 years ago
    Leo - Being that the 582 is rated for 300 hours - I will push past it as long as it purrs with no issues, last time I called it at 400 hours since it was the end of the season - time before that I was having issues at 300 and had it done then - If it had a 2000 hr TBO I would consider having it dynoed - otherwise probably not
  • Richard Pierce
    by Richard Pierce 2 years ago
    Tony - Quite a story - I have not hang glided before, doing that cross country in South American takes a set of steel ones - I take my hat off to you :)
  • Tony  Castillo
    by Tony Castillo 2 years ago
    Richard, I think it was more about ignorance and lack of proper training than steel ones. Perhaps coupled with some peer pressure.. you did not want to be the one carrying the HG back down in your shoulder. It took me long that day to setup ... all the others had already taken off, the Sherpas had also driven down, so I was alone finishing setup and took off in a real bad cycle. I found nothing but downdraft .... and you can't make it in that place unless there is some lift.

    I made many poor choices back then and I was perhaps in the more conservative side of the group.
  • Richard Pierce
    by Richard Pierce 2 years ago
    Life lessons - we were all immortal.........once - and we all need a good slap up the side of the head once in awhile - we are the lucky ones who were able to fly another day
  • white eagle
    by white eagle 2 years ago
    Richard and tony. Really awesome storys. I sunk out and landed way back in the woods in a caldera with a bunch of very hot miles to get out. Ill i got was my flying buddy calling me a pussy as he milked a thermal beyond my reach and disapeared.(very intimidating) after carring my glider for hours looking like some bad guy in a clint eastwood movie. My buddy found me and gave me a 1/4cup of hot boiling water . It was all they had left of beer pop wine, ice? Those were the days wernt they tony
  • Tony  Castillo
    by Tony Castillo 2 years ago
    White Eagle, yes.. and I am also happy how things are today. I am not all frustrated like John Olson and few others ... sometimes I kind of, sort of, understand him ... but most times I think to myself .. John, grow up, some regulation and organization have many advantages as well !!! but John has Mexico and the Free Mexican Army to vent and be less "regulated" ... so he is cool as long as he spend sometime there. I, however, am not sure Mexico is necessarily less regulated .. I think is more like there is less people all tie in a knot worrying about what others are doing.
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 2 years ago
    Sequester FAA-610 Where FUN Went To Die
    The definitive useless feds, we didn't need them when we didn't have them and we don't need them now that we do cabrones.
    That was just for you Tony.
  • Tony  Castillo
    by Tony Castillo 2 years ago
    yehaaaa ... what took you so long amigo? are you not closely watching those damm regs anymore ???
  • white eagle
    by white eagle 2 years ago
    Omg lol tony my amigo john ebb was just flying mingus with ole. I told him to throw a couple of rotten apples oles way
    John ebinger said why , i said because you have to be a rotten apple to be friends with ole.btw john ebinger is the one who called me a p,,,,y .from a thermal. You just gotta love ole.
  • Tony  Castillo
    by Tony Castillo 2 years ago
    If I were to sent Ole some of my pics from my old days ... 'cose I have seen some of his from his days ... he will probably realize how podridas the apples were back then in my neck of the woods as well ... you want wild stuff ... go fly trikes in South America in the late 70's and early 80's....
  • Tony  Castillo
    by Tony Castillo 2 years ago
    you never knew what the heck was going to come off your HG bag when you unzipped it
  • Doug Boyle
    by Doug Boyle 2 years ago
    Tony, Was that when the Cowboys would stuff their leading edges and crossbars to cross the border?
  • white eagle
    by white eagle 2 years ago
    Tony late 70s south america i think i saw that on monsterquest. Arnt they still saying there was a terradactyl sighting reported there.
    Surviving those days made you the pilot you are today.
  • John Olson
    by John Olson 2 years ago
    Tony unlike you, I'm not sure who's frustrated here and who ain't. I can tell you that I do as much flying as anyone I see around me regardless of useless feds. What does that say? Who cares?
  • Tony  Castillo
    by Tony Castillo 2 years ago
    John, I mean frustrated that there are more regulations to certain trikes. I am not frustrated about that anymore ... but certainly at times during the certification processes .. yes, I can get quite frustrated, because even the regulations are not very clear and sometimes you even get different interpretations from different FAA branches, offices, or DAR's and ASI's .. that can be frustrating,
  • DEAN COLEMAN
    by DEAN COLEMAN 2 years ago
    hi Richard follow you on you tube great work. I am just curios how bad regulator caused engine out.mag coils are separate from the charging coil unless it somehow grounded both mag coils when it shorted out
  • Richard Pierce
    by Richard Pierce 2 years ago
    Dean - Good question - the crash was in 2009 - when I first made the switch to trikes in 2000 I had a lot of help - Winters are harsh up here and I don't fly in the winter - every fall I flew to a small lake and left the trike for someone to pick up - they would put it away for the winter and deliver it back to me every spring, annualed and ready to go - cost me alot of money too - As time went on I wanted to transition away from that and become more independent - After the crash the trike went right back to the same people for repairs - I was told it was the rectifier that failed - I just moved on - I have since become certified to work on my own engine and do all the work myself short of an overhaul - it has been a journey
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