Christy Nicole McCormick’s emergency dead stick landing

Aircraft: Weedhopper

No, it’s not a taildragger – it’s an ultralight with a nose wheel. It is, however, a flying machine. Pilot Christy Nicole McCormick from Kansas experienced an emergency engine-out yesterday while flying her homebuilt Weedhopper. Christy is an accomplished pilot with over 3,000 hours and was able to walk away after successfully landing her aircraft. I asked Christy to give me her thoughts on the experience, a potential learning moment for any pilot. This is Christy’s report of how the incident occurred.

I’m still alive. I had to make an emergency landing today. I flew my weedhopper today twice. I had some ignition issues from the start. Keep in mind that  I haven’t flown in 2 yrs…….. Had a great first flight. Chris took off in his weedhopper then I took off again. I flew east about 6, maybe 7 miles to the east of Derby over the Arkansas river, at low altitude, started to get some ignition fluctuations. I was at around 500 feet altitude, didn’t like what I felt, turned back to the airport, probably a mile away. Then my worst fears happened. The engine quit. I tried to maneuver over a field that was smoother ground but altitude and airspeed bleeding off fast. Instead of possibly stalling out the aircraft I decided to drop her down abruptly and picked a rougher field with shocks a foot high. hoping to get her shut down before this 6 foot metal fence. as i approached within a few feet, the shocks looked higher. i thought ,,”this is going to hurt”. I hit hard. she rolled to a stop with 25 feet to spare. . but other than that, I had a GREAT time. I really did. Well, I say this, got my “REAL LIFE” engine out practice proficiency taking care of. Emergency landings are always a lot of fun. This LONE EAGLE survived and walked away, to fly another day. The hard landing didn’t hurt my bird, but my neck and right shoulder is a little sore. “Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing!”, Christy’s quote of the day!

Christy’s comments & recommendations for pilots:

  • Know your limitations, air-speeds, especially at low altitudes.
  • Always have an emergency landing area picked out, in case your engine goes south.
  • KNOW your glide angle, glide ratio, glide speeds for your particular aircraft. In my case, I am very familiar with the Weedhopper’s performance characteristics, air-speeds, glide angles. This a/c has A LOT of wing area and A LOT of parasite drag that induces and kills altitude and airspeed.
  • Sometimes a smoother field is not a choice. In my case there just wasn’t enough altitude/airspeed to try and attempt to keep the airplane flying by stretching the glide. If I had, it would have been in vain and I would have stalled trying to make the field. It is possible it might have rolled into a vertical descent and a fatal impact. I realized very quickly that option,,, was NOT an option and proceeded to fly my a/c straight forward in a controlled flight. I wanted to assure a safe airspeed and subsequent successful landing. A landing that I walked away from.
  • I was a CFI/MEI for years and I ALWAYS taught my students that the most critical time for engine failure is at low altitudes and/or at TAKEOFF. Every takeoff you make, always be planning on an alternate emergency landing site. Practice emergency / engine out procedures regularly. With 30 plus years and over 3,000 hours, I still treat any airplane with respect, cuz they can ALL kill you…
  • Be up to speed on your v speeds and know the performance limitations of the aircraft AND also the pilot. You’ll live longer that way. “God was on my side yesterday and I am forever grateful.”

Sincerely,

Christy

ChristyPrivate, Instrument, Commercial, Multi-engine, CFI ,certified flight instructor (SEL). MEI certified multi-engine flight instructor (MEL). Certified ground instructor (BGI, AGI) Basic and advanced. Flight Engineer, Type Rating (turbo-jet) Boeing 727. Freight, Air Ambulance, Charter, Flight Instructing.

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