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Fiery forced landing filmedFiery forced landing filmed

A driver with a dash cam on the road next to Washington’s Snohomish County (Paine Field) Airport in Everett had what was probably an uncomfortably close view of a fiery forced landing on May 2, capturing a video that quickly went viral on YouTube.

Authorities told local media that everybody walked away after the Piper PA-32 lost power shortly after takeoff, and clipped power lines located (based on a Google Earth survey) 2,000 feet from the pavement of Runway 34L.

Several witnesses described the emergency landing on Harbor Pointe Boulevard in Mukilteo, Washington, where the PA-32 registered to a limited liability company in Oregon went down about 3:30 p.m. May 2. Authorities told local media that nobody in the stricken airplane or on the ground was seriously hurt, though at least one minor injury may have been suffered by a vehicle occupant on the ground.

The pilot, reported to be a 30-year-old man from Oregon, according to local media, told police the aircraft lost power shortly after liftoff and he had lost too much altitude to make the runway. The pilot reportedly told police he chose Harbor Pointe Boulevard because it was relatively clear. A survey of the area on Google Earth shows no appealing options to choose from when faced with a low-altitude engine failure in the area where the airplane came down, with a dense concentration of commercial and residential buildings, as well as trees, making it a complicated problem to solve in seconds. One can surmise, based on the aircraft's westbound direction of travel and the point where it came to rest, that attempting to reach the runway, or even the cleared safety areas around the runway, would have ended very badly with virtual certainty.

A video interview posted online by a local television station shows a man identified by the station only as an NTSB “agent,” pictured wearing a blue NTSB cap, crediting the pilot with doing a “really good job of getting it down, and walking away, and the passengers.” The television station quoted another local pilot expressing much the same sentiment.

Bob Collins of Minnesota Public Radio went a little further on May 3, posting a blog that compared the pilot’s “fine airmanship” to that of “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot “Sully” Sullenberger.

  • A northwest-facing view in Google Earth showing Paine Field’s Runway 34L at the top, the position of the vehicle as it captured the forced landing at the bottom, and the intersection where the Piper PA-32 clipped power lines at center-left. Google Earth Image.
  • This Google Earth view shows the pilot’s perspective on Harbour Pointe Boulevard, at center, most likely seen on May 2 from a somewhat lower angle than this. Google Earth image.
  • A wider Google Earth view showing Paine Field’s Runway 34L at right, and at left the positon of the vehicle in which a camera captured the forced landing. Harbour Pointe Boulevard extends away from this perspective, at left. Google Earth image.
  • Image from a YouTube video posted May 2 by user Simon Li that quickly went viral. Courtesy of Simon Li via YouTube.
  • Image from a YouTube video posted May 2 by user Simon Li that quickly went viral. Courtesy of Simon Li via YouTube.
  • Image from a YouTube video posted May 2 by user Simon Li that quickly went viral. Courtesy of Simon Li via YouTube.
  • Image from a YouTube video posted May 2 by user Simon Li that quickly went viral. Courtesy of Simon Li via YouTube.
Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Editor-Web
Editor-Web Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
Topics: Accident

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