Friday, September 18, 2009


As I open with another story, I want you to see the importance behind this topic. Last week I had a trip which took me from our base to a remote strip to pick up eight guys. With them and their gear I was to fly them south approximately three hours. The strip is 4000ft long and 100ft wide. The challenge at hand was a heavy load out of a sand box. I have flown eight guys and gear out of this strip before but I didn't take into account the extra 1000lbs of fuel. I figured that since it was the end of their holiday that the food and drinks would be done and maybe a few fish for another day. Well to my surprize they had more than what they went in with. Also I didn't check with the boss to see if we did a station stop back to base to re-fuel, avoiding the issue initially. When you get into a busy operation, these details will slip your mind. You will haul some big loads out of these little strips and your confidence of doing it again will be high.

As we went down the runway, I knew it wasn't going to work. I aborted half way down and we bounced our way along the sandy roller coaster. It was my first time this year getting stuck as I tried to turn around in the sand. After booting everyone off and getting the plane out under its own power, I re-loaded them and gaver another try. This time I was starting from the soft end but I had a slight head wind in my favor. As we neared the end of the runway at 70kts, the last bump we took got us airborne but we weren't going to clear the trees. At this point your heart is racing and your mind is screaming at you to stop. I threw it into reverse and hammered on the brakes. This was a no go! Booting four guys off and calling for a C-206 to pick them up seemed to be the most viable option as they didn't want to leave any fish behind. Even on the take-off with less passengers I got my right main into some sand and it dragged me in. With the required correction which increased the drag on the aircraft, it was a tight finish to say the least. Having the stall horn screaming at you and a minor heart attack as you just clear the trees really makes you think twice about your choice of profession.
This is the actual strip.

This could have all been avoided if I asked some important questions prior to my departure. Lack of planning and preparation made this trip a learning experience that I will never forget. You don't forget these days as you work your way through your nine lives. Fly safe and keep it rubber side down.


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