There’s no shortage of stories about small planes crashing and what happens to their occupants. But rarely in those stories do you hear how the plane gets extricated from where it crashed. Now, Matt’s Off-Road Recovery YouTube channel is here to show how a crashed Cessna 150 gets hauled off of a mountain ridge.
As my off-roading season is slows down, I’m getting my dirt kick online, watching others wheel. I’ve been binging some Matt’s Off-Road Recovery, seeing off-roaders get rescued from sticky situations. Matt, his team, and guests make someone’s a day a bit better after off-roading goes really south.
Pilots try their best to be prepared for the unexpected. If something goes wrong, a pilot may be forced to put the plane down into something that’s not a runway. The main goal, of course, is to walk away.
As I’ve learned in my own training, a common way to recover a plane is to get a truck out there and haul it out on a flatbed trailer. Matt’s Off-Road Recovery shows what such an operation looks like.
This time around, his team is accompanied by a trio of pilots familiar with the aircraft. One of them is the brother of the pilot who crashed the Cessna, who explains that his brother was able to walk away. A scouting run reveals the best path to the plane before the team departs for the recovery, climbing mountain switchbacks as they go.
As the team traverses the terrain, the brother chimes in again to explain how his brother managed to crash the plane. The plane was flying at 9,300 feet MSL (or, mean sea level, which is your true altitude above sea level). The wind in the mountains was far higher than forecasted, and the plane made a forced landing in an unexpected downdraft that it couldn’t outclimb. It crashed at just over 8,000 feet.
More wind rolled it over long before the team got there to begin recovery.
If this occurred on the downwind-side of the mountain, it may have gotten caught in a rotor under a mountain wave. Skybrary defines a mountain wave as “oscillations to the downwind-side of high ground resulting from the disturbance in the horizontal air flow caused by the high ground.” And in the trough of these turbulent waves of air can be a rotor, a horizontal vortex.
These winds can push an airplane into the side of a mountain.
Regardless of how it got there, the recovery team made sure it got out. The wings had to come off, which required removal of the struts and draining of fuel.
It’s pretty cool how you could do this with hand tools at the top of a mountain. After the wings were taken off and drained, it was righted. Then it was pulled up the ridge and onto a trailer.
The Cessna will require some work to fly again. There’s damage to the wings and the vertical stabilizer. It’ll also need an engine teardown because of the prop strike.
If that engine has a lot of hours, they might as well overhaul it while they’re already in there. The overhaul alone could be $8,000 to $20,000. These are planes that you can buy for around $40,000, less or more depending on condition, hours and avionics.
Hopefully the little thing can be saved to fly again, and getting it back to civilization was a good first start.