By Alan Carr
Just like with any job, there are always those moments where someone does something stupid and no one gets too hurt, but spleens are splitting open with laughter over it. Pilots are no different; whether it’s from communications with the tower, passengers, or just mechanical and technical blunders, we’ve seen our fair share of terrifying and hilarious mistakes made. So in honor of spreading the humor to those that handle similar aviation situations here are some of the top funny moments thanks to pilot blunders that have occurred around me or to some of my pilot friends.
4. The Pre-Flight Check List
We all are aware of the annoyances and mind-numbing moments from our pre-flight checklist, and also the importance of it, and so does a pilot friend of mine when they were flying an Apache in Afghanistan. Part of his pre-flight planning was opening the hydraulics panel and forgot to close it back down when he was done. Unfortunately the panel on an Apache is right behind and to the side of the engine, so when he eventually got down his checklist to testing the engines and turning them on, it caused a slight problem. He didnt see it until he finished his checks and got out of the aircraft and saw the opened panel charred entirely black. He had burned the panel so badly it had to be replaced before the next flight.
But that’s not the best part. The real shine was the repair crew pulled off the panel and gave it to an artist who painted an Afghanistan scene on the blackened panel with a picture of an apache in the corner, with a panel on fire. Then when their force met for formation and an awards ceremony, the pilot was called up and awarded the painted and burnt panel along with a ceremony certificate. Everyone had a great laugh over that and the pilot has still never been able to live that down. But at least he still keeps the painted panel as a reminder that paying attention to his checklist can be important, especially if you don’t want to become the joke of the entire platoon.
3. Solo Hand-Propping
This little issue of doing something solo that by the handbook is supposed to be done with at least two people comes up quite often, but the biggest known case would have to be attempting to hand prop your aircraft, either because its an older model or the electric starter just wasn’t working (dead battery). And this one isn’t just one case of hilariousness; there are quite a few, which luckily only resulted in property damage. One pilot had tied the tail with a rope to keep it in place while he started the engine. The rope broke after the engine started and the pilot was running after the plane, caught up but took a misstep and fell, but caught his foot at the top of the steps and was promptly dragged along the ramp until he finally hit another parked plane. He wasn’t hurt and luckily the owner of the other plane just laughed when he saw the guy dangling down the aircraft’s steps.
Another individual tried this, but without tying the aircraft down with a rope, so when the plane took off after he hand-propped he was actually chasing down the plane and was barely able to hang onto the plane’s strut as the craft actually took off into the air. He finally fell from the plane a few feet later before the craft smashed into not one, but three other planes and a chain link fence. The only major damage was to the pilots ego when he had to explain what happened to those other aircraft owners. But it goes to show, if there’s a regulation for something like hand-propping, you should probably keep to it.
2. Infrared Just Never Works
These two stories come courtesy of an Apache army mechanic who was stationed in Bosnia and were two separate incidents with different pilots.
Sometime in the winter, with a freezing chill, a pilot had called him up with the problem that he couldn’t see through the infrared. So the mechanic got there and asked the pilot to start the system up so they could see what was wrong. The mechanic stood in front and the pilot affirmed that he couldn’t see through the infrared. So the mechanic asked him if he could see the mechanic, without the infrared. The pilot looked around and said no. Thats when the mechanic informed the pilot that his window was frozen and frosted over, and the pilot wouldn’t be seeing anything until that was cleared up, told the pilot to have a nice day and walked off.
Later on another pilot contacted about the same infrared system not working, but this time it just wasn’t swinging out when you activated it, so that it could be used. The mechanic got there, asked the pilot to turn it on, they went through the whole process then when it came to actually activating it the pilot has to press a button. As the pilot got to pressing the button, he hit it once, then twice immediately, then a third and fourth time over the course of a second. The mechanic was waving his hands and telling the guy to stop. Then he promptly informed the pilot that after pressing the button there is a delay of around ten seconds before the infrared system swings out and is ready for use. The mechanic went through the process, pressed the button once, and counted to ten. At ten, the system swung out and was useable. To this day the mechanic wasn’t sure how that pilot had ever been using that system before then.
1. Blackhawk Down Low
This one was a U.S. military milk run, where the pilot was making the flight solely for being able to have their pilot’s ratings for their license. They knew it would be an easy run and because of that, this pilot got it in his head that he could do a little showing off. It didnt help that a platoon from the Irish army was joining the flight since they needed to go where the pilot was flying. Because this was in a combat zone at the time, the aircraft had to fly lower, near the ground. But this pilot chose to fly far lower than they needed to and also started hotdogging, with fast turns and heavy weaving to essentially put on a show for the Irish army on board.
During all of this, the pilot realized that he missed a turn, so instead of slow turning to get back to the spot, he takes the plane right on its tail and goes into a near Immelmann maneuver to turn around. At this same time, all the Irishmen are cheering, while the co-pilot and pilot start freaking out because the caution panel on the Blackhawk started going off, halfway through the maneuver. The flight for the rest of the way is perfectly straight and normal, with no bizarre stunts. When they finally landed, one of the men had noticed the caution panel go off and asked what caused it. That was when the pilot revealed he had completely broken the electronic stabilizer mid-flight. This meant the pilot had to fly the plane almost entirely manually in terms of keeping the aircraft balanced. The platoon had a good laugh and even better was the story being used to keep others from deciding it would be a good idea to show off, because when you show off you better be ready to stabilize the consequences.
About the author – Alan Carr is an avid aviation aficionado learning about the aspects of the flying world from the business to the technical, while also frequently writing on what he finds. He currently works with globalair.com to provide resources on aircraft related information.