September 2007 Issue

Can I Land On That?

Suburban areas present open areas for emergency landings when we need them. Do mall parking lots and warehouse rooftops offer safe alternatives?

You are a skilled, proficient and responsible pilot. You do everything in your power to avoid dangerous situations but there are a few unavoidable moments during each flight where, if the unthinkable happened, you’d be left with few options. Flying is, after all, an exercise in risk management, not risk elimination. Imagine that you’re departing from Mega City Municipal. With a healthy climb rate established, you tuck away the landing gear, set climb power and prepare to enter the soup. Just as the airport fence slides underneath the belly, your sole engine shivers and goes silent. You’re only 500 feet above the ground, so turning back to the runway is not a reasonable option. You look out the window and all you see is a patchwork of gray and black boxes. Can you land on that stuff?

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