Flight expert says training is key to surviving light aircraft crash

PUBLISHED: 11:08 07 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:36 09 January 2019

The Cessna 195 which crash landed in a field between Colestocks and Hembury, on the outskirts of Honiton. Picture:  Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service

The Cessna 195 which crash landed in a field between Colestocks and Hembury, on the outskirts of Honiton. Picture: Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service

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An expert has given his thoughts on a plane crash-landing on the outskirts of Honiton last week.

The Cessna 195 which crash landed in a field between Colestocks and Hembury, on the outskirts of Honiton. Picture:  Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue ServiceThe Cessna 195 which crash landed in a field between Colestocks and Hembury, on the outskirts of Honiton. Picture: Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service

A Cessna 195 aircraft flipped over while its pilot attempted an emergency landing on soft ground in the field after taking off from Dunkeswell.

Miraculously, the pilot was unharmed in the dramatic crash.

While the Herald does not know the circumstances surrounding the incident, the importance of training has been highlighed as a significant factor when surviving a light aircraft crash.

Andy Wilkins, founder of the Virtual Jet Centre in Chudleigh, is a former airline pilot and a private and commercial pilot instructor. He said: “The only thing I could say about surviving a light aircraft crash is that it’s about training, and one of the most difficult exercises when you’re training a private pilot is PFL [Practice Forced Landing].

The Cessna 195 which crash landed in a field between Colestocks and Hembury, on the outskirts of Honiton. Picture: Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue ServiceThe Cessna 195 which crash landed in a field between Colestocks and Hembury, on the outskirts of Honiton. Picture: Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service

“Once you have a failure of any kind you tend to fly a set pattern and that enables you to select a field, put the aircraft safely down.

“That aircraft probably flipped over because the surface would have been wet and the tyres dug in. You can what we call stall the aircraft. That’s an aerodynamic stall, basically when you lose lift over the wing and it will slow the aircraft to a very slow speed, you’re almost doing that when you land anyway.

“It helps you to come in very slowly but you need to be quite advanced at that type of thing because you don’t want to stall it from too high an altitude because you will then break the undercarriage.

“It is survivable, the more you practice and are trained in PFL, that helps, but it’s quite a difficult exercise and one of the problems is that once you’ve got your PFL you don’t practice it. When we do renewals we try to always do a PFL because that reminds people of what they’ve got to do and what they’ve got to look at.

“But aircraft are generally very reliable. If it’s a problem at low level that’s more difficult because you need to enable the aircraft to have airspeed to fly.”

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