Crashes in Saline Valley, another private bites the dust
Posted by RiverRat on December 11, 2002 at 11:50:12:
In Reply to: Crashes in Saline Valley posted by Dezdan on December 10, 2002 at 19:07:01:
Hello Dezdan, I was at the Lower Warm Springs during Easter Week Break, 1987, when a private plane crashed. A private group of 4 men (if I can associate myself with the gender-type they displayed) flew in, inspected the old strip (not the Chicken Strip) by a single high flyover, tried to land on the old strip, aborted, and hit the bank RIGHT ABOVE WHERE WE WERE CAMPED (talk about ruining your morning coffee), tore a gouge in the bank with their landing gear and stayed airborn. They then flew down and circled the salt pan for a while, like they were thinking of landing there (that would have been interesting) (maybe they were just trying to deal with the feces in their shorts??). They came back and landed on the Chicken Strip. Hitting the bank collapsed a shock on the left? landing strut but it was usable (it didn't wreck the landing gear).
I could add comments about how rude and obnoxious they were, how they drooled and slathered and commented over the naked women in the tubs, how they packed a cooler so full of beer and ice, it took 6 men and 2 boys to carry it, and so on, but I won't.
When they finally left (thank god), late in the morning after it was warming up (and after a night of trying, but not succeding, to drink up all their beer), they loaded the same cooler instead of distributing the leftovers and the ice (do you sence major karma kicking in long about now?), took off, stalled and dropped back into the wash below the Chicken Strip. From the marks it looked like they caught the left wingtip on the right bank of the wash and spun 270 degrees into the bank, stopping all at once. It was the most amazing sound--the plane reved up for takeoff, obviously took off, then a WHUMP and silence, the WHUMP echoing through the still morning air. Everybody grabbed first aid boxes and ran/drove over. When I got there one guy was sitting on the bank, white and green at the same time (an amazing flesh color)--he saw his life flash before his eyes and found it wanting. The pilot (so called) was ranting about how it wasn't his fault and how he would sue whoever said it was, and so on.
A pilot friend of mine, a professional in his actions and behavior, familiar with Saline Valley and the Chicken Strip, dissected the story and pictures. He said the first warning sign was hitting the bank before finally landing (mark of an amateur, not conducting a low flyover, unfamiliar with unfamiliar procedures and unfamiliar terrain, trying to land anyway. A low flyover would also have let us know he was going to try to land there, and we would have been on our feet instead of wrapped around the coffee pot). The overloaded cooler and not emptying it was a second warning sign. Trying to drink all the beer stands by itself. He said if there was any question on takeoff, a professional pilot would have taken off by himself to prove it could be done and then returned to pick up his friends, and done it early in the morning when the air was still cool and had some lift. (Same as us RiverRats, who never take passengers on a First Descent down an unknown river, we at least try it first and practice). The collapsed shock made the plane off camber and that probably affected takeoff. Inexperienced pilot (hungover?)
Somewhere in my photos I have a series showing the crashed plane, the clipped off cresote bushes before it crashed, the corkscrewed propeller, the kink in the plane (looked like it's back was broken), and so on. Looks kind of sad and abondoned, framed against the Inyo Mountains. I heard it was a rental plane: I'm sure the "pilot" had lots of explaining to do to the owner about why he was out on an unimproved, unofficial strip way off in the desert. Has added to the desert stories, and makes landing and taking off from the Chicken Strip with my friend even more thrilling than usual.