Sometimes pilots make mistakes. If they’re lucky, nobody gets hurt and you walk away to fly another day. This pilot somehow managed to make a series of bad choices and still managed to keep on flying.
This Piper Aerostar touches down the dirt strip dirt strip at Aero Acres Airport in Fort Pierce, Florida with the landing gear still retracted. The before landing checklist is pounded into every pilot’s head. Its a simple acronym GUMPS; gas, undercarriage, mixture, props, seatbelt and switches. There’s even a siren that sounds in the cockpit intended to alert the pilot if the aircraft reaches a slow enough speed to put the gear down. This isn’t the first time a crew neglected all these techniques, but it’s probably the only time an airplane has crash landed and managed to fly away.
A normal gear up landing would end pretty much like a normal landing except skidding to a stop. This pilot decides to put the balls to the wall and tries to power out of a bad situation. Hearing the propellers strike the ground is especially cringe-worthy since they are connected directly to the engine crankshaft and can cause severe internal damage to all the bits and pieces spinning around inside the crankcase.
After amazingly becoming airborne once again, the pilot somehow avoids a seemingly impending wing stall. The aircraft appears to wobble off the ground with very little control and sinks back toward the ground before stable flight is regained. It’s rumored that the airplane was able to make a safe landing at another paved landing elsewhere in south Florida.
The Aerostar 601P is one of the fastest twin-engine piston aircraft ever produced and was fitted with luxury accommodation for six. Originally a brain child of Ted R. Smith who was known as one of the most brilliant aircraft designers of the times. The plane was a mid-wing cantilever monoplane powered by two wing-mounted Avco Lycoming piston engines, with a tricycle landing gear built in the mid ‘60s. It was later bought by the Mooney Airplane Company, and finally taken over by the Piper Aircraft Corporation after Ted Smith died in 1976. The 601P had higher-rate turbochargers to feed a cabin pressurization system.
The plane gained somewhat of a bad reputation for falling out of the sky. It was known to lose roll and yaw control at high power settings and low airspeeds. During flight testing of stall characteristics, aileron and rudder authority would be lost while the wing would continue to generate lift. This is generally opposite of the desired outcome and is the exact scenario we see demonstrated by our confused pilot who somehow didn’t realized he just crashed and managed to keep things right-side-up.
This 1970 Aerostar 601 did in fact land safely but not without substantial damage to the props and has recently been listed for sale with the disclaimer “needs props.”