Pilot, 73, landed plane one-handed

A 73-year-old managed to land a plane in Wexford with one hand while holding on to the cockpit canopy with the other.

The incident in June was examined by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) and involved a Colibri MB-2 aircraft which took off from ILAS Airfield, Taghmon, in Wexford for a local flight.

Prior to take-off, the pilot carried out pre-flight checks, including a canopy locked check. After taking off as normal and passing 300ft, the canopy of the aircraft unexpectedly opened.

The pilot managed to pull the canopy closed but could not lock it, requiring him to exert sustained manual pressure on it. Then, while holding the canopy shut with his right hand, he flew the aircraft using his left hand. In order to land as quickly as possible, he climbed to 1,000 feet and completed a standard circuit for runway 18 at ILAS airfield.

The AAIU report said that, with only one hand to operate the stick and throttle, control of the aircraft was “difficult”. The pilot told investigators the aircraft crossed the threshold of the runway and, he thought, “flared slightly too high [5 ft approx]”. The subsequent loss of airspeed resulted in a hard landing which caused the left wheel to become detached from the aircraft.

About 7m after the aircraft first made contact with the runway, the propeller impacted the ground, breaking both propeller blades. The aircraft then swivelled approximately 120 degrees in an anti-clockwise direction before coming to rest.

The AAIU praised the pilot for his handling of the situation.

“Unexpected opening of a cockpit canopy in flight can result in the loss of an aircraft due to the ‘startle effect’ on the pilot and subsequent control difficulties,” said the report. “In this case, the pilot demonstrated good flying skills maintaining steady flight and positioning for landing.”

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