General aviation (small airplanes) made a splash in the news recently, especially in LA, with the emergency landing of a Cessna 172 on a street in Huntington Beach, CA. The news was accompanied with dashcam and security video, as well as cellphone pictures of an airplane stopped in the middle of a street surrounded by surprised drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. The web and news outlets filled with titles like “Student Pilot Makes Miraculous Emergency Landing”.
As an instructor, I find nothing “miraculous” about this. The pilot showed good skill, along with some luck.
News reports tended to focus on three attributes of the pilot – female, Asian, and that she was a student pilot. Only the last has any bearing on the story and did increase many people’s perception of the “miracle” – someone in training had managed to land in an emergency without hurting herself or anyone else or even apparently damaging the plane.
It’s true that the ability to perform under the stress of a real emergency is not universal. However, every pilot, including student pilots, is required to demonstrate some proficiency in dealing with emergencies and setting up to land after an engine failure. The FAA training requirements for student pilots prior to solo to include
(11) Emergency procedures and equipment malfunctions;
(13) Approaches to a landing area with simulated engine malfunctions
This incident shows the pilot had been well trained and performed admirably – a testament to her skill and her instructor’s preparation. She communicated her situation to controllers, selected an available street and kept the aircraft under control to a good landing while avoiding a number or obstacles and vehicles.
But, there is always an element of luck. She had no control over the roads available to her, or to the amount of traffic on that road as she approached. If a few cars had turned onto the road she chose, the outcome might have been different.
My hope is that every pilot and student pilot could perform as well in the same situation. The only way is through ongoing practice and preparation. Keep practicing.