August 2008 Issue

Mitigating Terrain Risks

How you and your passengers fare after a survivable off-airport landing depends on what you’re wearing and what’s in the airplane.

There we were in a friend’s F33A Bonanza at 9000 feet in radio darkness from Houston, Jacksonville, and Miami Centers. That put us plus or minus six feet from the geographical center of the Gulf of Mexico. We were droning along under a full moon at about 10 pm, listening to Jimmy Buffett on the CD player. The in-cockpit conversation mainly focused on debating which Key West bar we were going to grace as soon as we landed. Then the radio came to life and ruined the mood. "Baron 12345, this is American 3743, are you on the frequency?" My friend paused, then answered, "Uh, yep; we’re IFR to KEWY, niner thousand with Buffett on the CD player, 345." "Okay; Miami asked us to see if you were on the radio. They’re expecting you to check in." "Yeah, we can’t get ’em yet—too low," he explained and gave a position report and ETA for the fix where we would report in before adding, "By the way, we’re a Bonanza."

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