Flight Training, a GA Pilot and a Goose

By Robert Mark on January 20th, 2014

Taking a Bite Out of Those GA Accident Statistics

Whenever a flight instructor finishes up a training session with a GApilot — new or old — they always hope that pilot really understood the lesson before they head out on their own. An instructor knows that when an emergency arrives one day, there won’t be time for a last minute review. Just one more reason for all pilots to take some kind of regular flight training.

With GA accident numbers that never seem to decline, it’s nice to write about a pilot who did everything right … despite significant odds against him.

Baird Windscreen from inside cockpitI spent some time chatting with private pilot Keith Baird the other day. He bases his 1968 Cessna 210 at Chicagoland’s Brookeridge Airpark, also known as LL22 southwest of the city. On December 28th, Baird decided to take a friend for an after-Christmas flight in some nice weather. But climbing through 400 feet or so on departure, Baird’s airplane collided with a 15-pound Canada goose, about the same size as the ones that downed a US Airways flight shortly after departure from LaGuardia five years back.

If you haven’t yet watched the short video shot from inside the airplane that day, it’s worth a few minutes of any pilot’s time. I’d never seen a video of a bird and a plane colliding through a windshield. Trust me it’s eye opening. Baird Bird Strike video. But come back for the rest of the story …

What makes this near accident even more important than the fact that the goose didn’t knock the pilot unconscious or down the aircraft, was that neither Baird nor his passenger received so much as a scratch in the collision. Baird said the noise level in the cockpit quickly became a roar and that the force of the wind itself through what was left of the windshield was minimal because, “with the closed cabin there was no where for the air to go.” The compass that had been attached to the upper mid section of the window came loose “because that’s precisely where the bird came in.” Baird said he did remember being hit in the head which turned out to be the compass whacking him in the padded portion of his headset before it fell to the floor. “It was a Bose headest,” Baird told me. What was left of the goose fell between the front seats where Baird’s passenger quickly pushed it to the floor.Baird goose on floor

Baird said his training kicked in next. “I knew I had to maintain control of the airplane so I checked to see if the engine was still producing power and it was.” He also remembers checking the flight controls so he quickly realized he had control of the aircraft too. He called the multicom frequency they use at LL22 and told anyone who might be around that he’d hit a bird and was immediately returning to land. “I wanted to make sure that someone didn’t try to takeoff right in front of me because I knew I didn’t want to have to go around,” he said.

And then, Baird just landed the airplane. As he taxied back to the ramp, he realized he was covered in blood, as was his passenger. They both looked each other over to see if either of them were injured, but both were just fine. The mess  – and there was quite a mess indeed – was from the deceased goose.

If I were talking to a professional pilot about all of this after the airplane was safely on the ground, I would have expected them to make it work. We often assume a private pilot will panic and simply lose control, But Baird kept his wits about him.

So maybe the sign of a true professional pilot is not necessarily the certificate they carry in their pocket, but how they conduct the flight … especially when the odds are against them.

There’s actually a few more tiny pieces to this odds-defying story however. Keith Baird recorded the entire incident on a Go-Pro Hero 3 camera attached in the back of the cabin. He’d just received it as a Christmas present a few days before. This was his first flight and he thought it would be fun to record it all. When we last spoke, Keith told me he was still waiting for a replacement windshield to arrive.

He also mentioned how many hours of work it took him to rid the cabin of all the blood and bird innards which reminded him of the only funny part to this story. One thing Baird hadn’t thought about after he put the airplane away that December day was what to tell his wife when he got home. You see, Keith kinda forgot to clean himself up first. He told me he walked in the kitchen looking pretty much the way he did in this photo.Baird & goose

Hey … nobody’s perfect.

Rob Mark, Publisher



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