Buffalo, NY (WBEN) A plane loses power just 200 feet from the ground. What can or must a pilot do to provide his passengers a safe landing?
Pilot Bob Miller says such an occurrence is rare in well-maintained planes. "Believe it or not the most frequent reason for losing power is running out of fuel," which Miller says happens more often than pilots like to admit.
Miller says if a plane loses power at a critical phase of flight such as landing or takeoff, the results can be worse than when a plane is thousands of feet in the air. "A plane in that case could land in a cornfield, for example," explains Miller. But only 200 feet in the air leaves the pilot with just one option. "Straight ahead, and if straight ahead means hitting an obstacle, a building, or in this case a parking lot, the pilot has no choice," says Miller, who says trying to turn back to the runway in the case of a take off problem could have tragic results. "That's the worst thing to do. That almost leads to a scenario called a stall, unfortunately leading to fatailies," notes Miller.
How do pilots occur for such a situation? Miller says he would not deliberately fail the engine at a low altitude. "We can certainly idle an engine back momentarily to check a student pilot's reaction to see what has to be done. We can do this in an area where there are otherwise no obstacles," says Miller.
Miller says the pilot who crash landed yesterday is to be commended for doing so without causing injury to her passengers.