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What scared you in an airplane?

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Joseph II

Well-known member
Mar 11, 2002
What have you had happen that scared you in an airplane?

Were you the pilot/copilot, or a passenger (such as riding as a pax on an airline)?

WX/System Failures/Sick PAX/Falling asleep/spins, stalls?

In my short flying career I've had carb ice at night and didn't know what it was (I was a very new pilot), and have had several close calls with other aircraft in busy airspace.
Fire (internal), accidental penetration of a nymphoCu, engine fire. big pond (very cold) - one engine.
Took a friend sightseeing then dropped him off. He got out of the plane and his seat belt fell outside the door when he closed it.

I took off and heard this deafening loud metallic banging noise. For a few seconds, adrenalin surged through my body until I figured out I was still flying and I found the cause of the problem.

I was a brand new PPL. I briefly considered leaning across to open the passenger door and fix it, but then correctly decided to land and fix the problem.
A-hole O-4's

Flying off the boat (S-3), get a weight on wheels failure, no big dea, right? Go out to do some bombing practice with 500lb shapes (inert bombs). In the midst of a 10 degree pop pulling a coupla G's, get a wing/fin unlocked light. The WoW served (along with a lot of other things) as an interlock to keep the pins in the wing and vertical stab locked, preventing them from folding inflight. Heard the wing pins ratcheting, got real scared, real quick. I was a *junior* SENSO on the second month of my first cruise. The Mission Commander (TACCO) was an 0-4, the Safety Dept. Head, and he didn't want to "embarrass the squadron by calling a rep". He turned to me and told me to safe my ejection seat, get up and get him the NATOPS (flight manual). Even as an E-4, I knew enough to tell him to get stuffed. Long story short, he ended up getting it himself. Trapped uneventfully.
Fires, structural failures, gear failures, hydraulic failures, pneumatic failures, electrical failures, Instrument failures, you name it. Not a problem. Formation flights under powerlines at gross weights, not a problem. Flight into 300' columns of flame. Not a problem.

Landing and taxiing in and realizing that my wallet is in my other pants, and an inspector is standing on the ramp...scared **CENSORED****CENSORED****CENSORED****CENSORED**less.

Departing and realizing that I forgot to call the wife as promised. Panic City. Remembering that it was my anniversary to boot...would just as soon die before arriving home.

It's all relative. The airplane hasn't the power to scare; it's us. What really drives us?
East Central Florida

the thought of about 300+ training aircraft all in the same general area still scares me to this day.
Buddy of mine flew a Citabria out of Oceanside, CA. After one of the spring floods he cleaned up mud off the bottom of the airplane fired her up and took off for a joy ride in the hills of So Cal. Climbing out of 800' he looks up and sees a rattle snake coiled around the overhead tubing! The snake's not happy, spitting & rattling his tail, my buddy's s***ing himself.

He button hooks it, lands 180 out from his takeoff and runs for the hills. One of the local fellows got the snake out no problem. The smell took a while longer.
Three scary incidents

300+ training aircraft in the Florida skies, as Jaybird mentioned.

Item: One time we're shooting an approach in VFR into Fort Pierce. We're cleared and tower is talking to a Baron. It is clear the pilot was linguistically challanged. Tower was trying to tell this Baron to follow us, but the Baron wasn't comprehending. He is coming from our right. I am scared half to death that we would be midaired. I could not find this aircraft. I recall that he cut in front of me, barely. I filed a NASA report.

Item: Another time at Fort Pierce, we're at the hold line and are cleared for takeoff. We line up on the runway and my student is advancing the throttles when some airplane pulled in front of us without a takeoff clearance and departed. The tower apologized. I understood that tower would turn in a report. Yours truly turned in a NASA report on that one, too.

At Riddle my student and I are practicing slow flight in a 172. We have an observer in the back, as is Riddle's custom, so we have aft CG considerations. Full, power, the stall horn is blaring and my student is slightly uncoordinated. Flaps are extended fully. My student pulls back a little more. You probably can guess the rest of the story. We enter a left-hand spin entry with possible aft CG and full flaps. The ground looms closer in our windscreen (slight exageration for dramatic effect, but only a slight exageration). I took it, pulled off the power, raised the flaps and we recover. Thirteen years later, I still shudder when I recall this incident.
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