PDA

View Full Version : Another aviation question



aruna
04-08-2006, 10:00 AM
Didn't want to hijack that other thread but I'd love some input here from you flyers!

IN my WIP (different from the one last year, for which I also had aviation questions) I have a small plane flying over the jungle in Guyana when a storm hits them and it crashes, only one survivor.

I don't know Jack sh!t about flying. I don't need any technical details; just a plausible reason why a small plane should crash during a storm.

The plane's a Dakota - I used that because I know they used that sort of plane there. I have no idea what a Dakota is, and the reader doesn't have to know, but it might be useful for me to atleast have a vague idea of what is going on.

Sorry to sound like an idiot. The plane crash is merely one incident in the story, but I do need to make it plausible. Can you help me with a scenario? The storm is important. The way it is now, I have the plane crashbeing braked by the treetops, so there is no impact on the ground and no explosion. Would the plane crack open under sich circumstances? What would happen? I just have to make it possible for everyone to die except one passenger.

Alien Enigma
04-08-2006, 11:24 AM
You're not going to like this coming from me, but you could use that the plane suffered metal fatigue in the fuselage or the plane was not serviced for the mandated pressure requirements.

aruna
04-08-2006, 01:44 PM
You're not going to like this coming from me, but you could use that the plane suffered metal fatigue in the fuselage or the plane was not serviced for the mandated pressure requirements.

Thank you, Alien! Of course I don't mind it coming from you - all help is welcome, and that's a very good reason, and very likely in the face of conditions at the time.

Kathie Freeman
04-09-2006, 12:47 AM
A lightning strike within the storm can wreak all kinds of havoc with instrumentation, fuel or oil lines. Impaired visibility can cause an inexperienced pilot to become disoriented.

janetbellinger
04-09-2006, 02:43 AM
Good suggestion, Jeff. The small plane pilot may only have Visual Flight Reference qualifications, instead of Instrument Flight References. If he/she had IFR he/she would be able to navigate, even in a storm. Without it, he/she would not be able to see. Also, lightning could strike an engine, causing a fire in the airplane. If the weather was cold he/she might have forgotten to deice the aircraft.

aruna
04-09-2006, 09:22 AM
Thanks toal of you. That's already a lot to work with; all these suggestions are good ones.
I think I like the lighnting idea best, as it needs th eleast of exposition and it connects with the storm. I don't want tohaev to say the machine was old or unserviced, or that the pilot was underqualified. The lightning strike keeps up the action.

Ed Rogers
04-09-2006, 05:58 PM
Small planes out side of the US run into bad fuel. Due to the way it is stored or sometimes it is a blackmarket shipment, cost of fuel is very hight at small airports. There may be dirt or water within it, or a line could break. One thing for sure "No fuel--no fly":Shrug:

DaveKuzminski
04-09-2006, 06:48 PM
Microburst. It's a weather condition that occurs frequently all around the world. It's a sudden downward burst of wind that can drop anything down a thousand feet in just a second. It's known to have caught planes and caused them to crash. It occurs most frequently in storms, but has been known to occur occasionally under other conditions.

It can crash good planes with good maintenance, plenty of good fuel, and good pilots just as easily as any without those qualifications.

MadScientistMatt
04-10-2006, 04:56 AM
How low is the plane flying?

Winds could certainly have blown it into the trees; as Dave noted, some of them are quite powerful and unpredictable.

I had a book somewhere on cross-country flying. It mentioned that lightning strikes and the damage they do are extremely unpredictable. You can have the lightning destroy almost anything electrical you want it to, and leave other things unharmed.

There have been a huge variety of ways to build airplanes. An explosion is unlikely, but just how much it cracks apart will depend on what the plane is made from and a large amount of dumb luck. Many planes, like Cessnas, military aircraft, and airliners, are built from aluminum. Aluminum may tear on impact, but the rips often stop at panel edges. A wooden and canvas plane would have its frame snap in several places, and the canvas ripped. A fiberglass or carbon fiber plane would probably shatter - note that these usually have a bit of wood in them too, including a frame for the wings.

Chances are that many of the people who die in the crash would have struck objects inside the cockpit - especially if they didn't have their seatbelts on.

alleycat
04-10-2006, 05:28 AM
A Dakota is basically a Douglas DC-3. It's a twin engine, metal body aircraft.

ac

asorum
04-10-2006, 08:09 AM
It looks like you have covered several possibilities. The DC-3 or C-47 Dakota was a real workhorse during WWII and beyond. They are powered by a pair of huge radial engines and the plane has a history of being very reliable. Lightning alone would probably not down a DC-3. It could damage navigation equipment which would be a problem in the clouds.

Other things were listed. Contaminated fuel or no fuel, metal fatigue in a wing spar, engine failure, control failure or fire. Normally it's a series of events that causes an accident. Oil leak>engine failure>propeller doesn't feather>loss of altitude>crunch.

Good luck with your effort. The only other thing you might consider is a smaller plane. The DC-3 is normally flown by two people and think you were talking about one person in your story. Use a Cessna C-172 Skyhawk or C-206 Stationair.

PaperbackWriter
04-10-2006, 07:55 PM
For a bit more info on the 'Dak' (and a picture) look here: http://www.airforce.forces.gc.ca/equip/historical/dakotalst_e.asp

A Dak is a hardy plane, but they are old, but it is not a small plane. They used to be used for cargo and paratroopers in the second world war.


I would go with metal fatigue or an explosion (or both) - your story location is perfect for gun running (or explosives) to drug lords. Which would also explain why the plane is not maintained to specification.

Maybe an RPG (missile) attack?

Or another: in Africa we often have civil war. A friend was on a flight many years ago, suddenly the plane dropped to a very low altitude, and all the lights were switched off (this was a night flight).
The explanation was this – Guerrilla factions on the ground would fire indiscriminately at the planes overhead – if you do not have an air force then all planes can be considered the enemy – by keeping low the troops on the ground do not have enough time to load up, aim and fire from the time they see it… the plane would be long gone.
What if the pilot makes an error and hits a higher than average tree, or one on a knoll? The plane would go down if damaged enough…


Maybe flying low to avoid radar?




A pilot friend (he flew Daks at one time) once told me that planes often get hit by lightning, but since the circuit is not completed (it needs to be conducted into the ground) no damage is done to the plane – or its instruments.


As for the crash, I would imagine that the tops of the trees would cushion the crash, but as that plane gets closer to the ground (as gravity demands) the thicker tree stumps would wreak havoc on that old frame.

I picture one wing of the plane dipping down (say the left one) and knocking one of those stout trees… maybe rip off one of the wings. Now the plane is on its side, one wing up, fuselage crashing into the ground, tail ripping off, stuff flying around inside the fuselage – deadly projectiles.

Trees would be knocked down, there would be an ugly scar in the jungle.

The plane would probably not explode, though it may start burning.
Your pilots (two of them) could be killed by the direct impact since they would be sitting right up front.


Plenty of time to kill the handfull of people on the flight, bar one.


There should be enough above to get the imagination going.

ideagirl
04-11-2006, 02:25 AM
I think I like the lighnting idea best, as it needs th eleast of exposition and it connects with the storm. I don't want tohaev to say the machine was old or unserviced, or that the pilot was underqualified. The lightning strike keeps up the action.

I'm not sure I would buy the lightning idea all by itself, because storms are dangerous--even passenger jets generally prefer to fly above or around storms rather than through them, and small planes certainly do (small planes would try to go around the storm or land and wait until it passed). So the pilot would have to be a jackass to knowingly fly really close to or through it. The lightning strike could obviously wreak havoc, but first you'd have to explain what the hell they were doing flying so close to a storm in the first place. They shouldn't just happen to get caught in a storm, because a competent pilot checks the weather forecast before they go. If for some reason he got lost, then they might just happen upon a storm, but the pilot would see it long before they got to it and would try to avoid it.

By the way, if you want some insight into the difference between an instrument-rated pilot and one who's not instrument rated, look up articles on the crash that killed JFK Jr. (a NON-instrument-rated pilot who imprudently and inexplicably decided to fly over the ocean on a moonless night!!!).

Even if it WERE hit by lightning, the loss of certain instruments would only be critical if (1) visibility were crap and (2) the pilot were instrument-rated, i.e. he could've flown the plane in horrible visibility if it weren't for the fact the instruments just got knocked out. If he weren't instrument-rated, they would crash just because of the bad visibility--the presence or absence of functioning instruments wouldn't make a difference. Having lightning knock out a fuel line seems a little unlikely and melodramatic to me--there are so many other problems involved with flying in the storm (and the basic problem is an incompetent pilot--what kind of jackass tries to fly a small plane through a thunderstorm, etc.), that the fuel-line lightning-strike thing just seems like overkill.

What would work for me is if the storm messed up visibility, as storms generally do--you don't have to be in or right next to the storm to have impaired visibility--and the pilot got disoriented or panicked. If the countryside where your scene takes place happens to be mountainous, there's an obvious accident waiting to happen: even passenger jets have been known to fly into mountainsides when visibility is bad (and, in the case of passenger jets, one or more instruments is broken, and/or the pilot (or ATC) makes a big mistake). Anyway, if it flies into a mountainside some other way than head-on, one survivor is completely plausible. Ditto if it flies into treetops.

The other definite possibility, ESPECIALLY if the terrain is mountainous, is a freak wind that blows the plane into a mountain or (if it's flying low) trees. Freak winds can happen in mountains easily, and they're common in the vicinity of a storm too, so that's quite plausible. Dave mentioned microbursts--they're especially common near (or, of course, in) storms. And here's some information on wind issues in mountain flying:
http://www.nw.faa.gov/ats/zdvartcc/high_mountain/mwx.html

aruna
04-20-2006, 03:44 PM
Thanks for all your comments, and sorry for my absence on the thread - I was in Germany for a week without internet. Lots of good situations in the above suggestions, but a couple of them, would require too much explanation - and I want to keep this scene and the info in it short - which is why I favoured the lighnting stirke, I can easily show that rather than tell, whereas even "bad maintenence" would have to be explained somehow.
Here is some more info on the situation:
Guyana is a large, flat land covered mostly by tropical rainforest. The only mountains are in the very hinterland, and do not come into the story at all. There are no roads to the interior towns and villages, so much of the transport is by small plane. At the story's time, the country was in dire economical straits, and suffered as well from brain drain. So bad equipment, bad fuel and bad pilot could also be significant, but again, I'd need to somehow explain all of that.

The trip concerned is a two-hour excursion to visit a famous waterfall in the interior. The number of passengers doesn't matter, just that there are certainly more than the two characters concerned.

Now, the weather: it's mostly sunny, but rain showers are likely to break at any time, last for a few minutes, and then stop. Even on a clear blue day, sometimes clouds gather, it rains, and then stops, and the sky turns cloudless again. The rain clouds come in from the Atlantic. Weather reports, as far as I remember, are so good as non-existant, since you know you're wither in the rainy or the dry season, but that it can rain at any time. Though I suppose it's different for pilots! However, Guyanese simply don't have the weather-checking habit, so it could be the pilot's negligence , or that a storm came up unexpectedly. (Likely during a two-hour flight?)
When it rains heavily, then it is really heavy.
I am quite happy to make it a smaller plane, but I have absoltely no idea what would be used at that time, in that place.

DaveKuzminski
04-20-2006, 04:25 PM
Unless your pilot is an expert at maintenance to know what is causing the problem, odds are he won't. He'll be too busy trying to regain control, so that means you don't have to actually show anything more than him reacting. You don't have to actually give the cause.

Billytwice
04-25-2006, 05:52 AM
I think the Dakota is a large, old but reliable aircraft and I'd be tempted to go for something smaller.

Perhaps a helicopter? I still can't figure out how those things stay in the air.
I think I'd go for pilot error as the cause of the crash, and I'd probably make the pilot a drunk or a stoner...LOL
I know, a drop out US Vietnam vet pilot stoned on grass and one of those Huey gunships.

Check this out:
http://www.aircav.com/huey/uh1.html
or this:
http://tri.army.mil/LC/CS/csa/uh-1m.htm

johnnysannie
04-26-2006, 11:49 PM
Small planes out side of the US run into bad fuel. Due to the way it is stored or sometimes it is a blackmarket shipment, cost of fuel is very hight at small airports. There may be dirt or water within it, or a line could break. One thing for sure "No fuel--no fly":Shrug:

Bad fuel can indeed cause a plane to crash - and it does happen in the US but not often. A friend of my husband's crashed his small plane a few years ago after getting bad (as in contaminated with dirt or water) fuel in the US. He survived but it was a long recovery.

It was scary to me because we - my husband and I - had flown with him in the plane that later crashed.

rbflynn
04-27-2006, 01:51 AM
Wind shear could take a Dakota out easily and doesn't require much explanation to anyone that is a flyer or knows planes. The result could be anything from stalled engines to abruptly altered flight paths (aka turbulance). Most often they occur along a weather front, but they have been known to occur in almost all weather patterns as well, including a bright sunny day. It's a serious enough weather condition that as of about 10 years ago or so all airlines are required to carry specific equipment that gives a bit of warning to the pilot if wind shear is present or possible (no clue how that works, though, sorry.)

http://www.weatherquestions.com/What_is_wind_shear.htm

for a simplified explanation, or just google Wind Shear if you want more detail.

Billytwice
04-29-2006, 12:17 AM
I saw an interesting TV show the other night about lightning.

Apparently aircraft do get hit by lightning, which I found odd as I thought you had to be connected to earth to attract lightning?
Yet another reason for me not to embark on a flight!
Anyhow, this young American pilot often flew his aircraft into thunderstorms to look for lightning bolts (it takes all sorts I suppose.)
The effects of the lightning on the structure of the aircraft was to make a small molten patch about the size of a match head where the lightning hit (entrance point) and a three to four inch vapourised hole where the lightning exited the aircraft.
Perhaps you could use a lightning strike as a cause? I should imagine the extreme voltages and current involved would destroy the electronic equipment on board though I don't recall any mention of this during the TV show.
Of possibly more interest is the dents and damage caused by large hailstones to the aircraft as these large hailstones are common in high altitude thunderstorms?
The aircraft looked very much the worse for wear with all those dents in wings etc.

rich
04-29-2006, 12:30 AM
Take the wind. Easier to explain, and won't have you geting into maintenance problems, which you'll somewhat have to explain. If the plane is that low, other than the pilot not knowing he's low, he'd have had his wheels down. The tree tops would not have a "braking" affect, it would force its nose to head earthward.

jcbwrites
04-29-2006, 01:03 AM
A couple of things here from an old pilot. First, if you're going on a sightseeing tour for a couple of hours, taking a Dakota would require a lot of paying passengers, it's noisy and it's also a very strong old bird.

More realistic would be, say, a 1956 Beech Twin or a 1959 Piper Twin carrying 3-4 people out for the sightseeing. These are plausible planes and could be found in Guyana. Bad fuel can be serious but usually shows up at or shortly after takeoff. Lightening seldom does any damage to a plane that would render it unflyable--besides, it's been done so many times...

I would think a very realistic scenario would be as simple as poor maintenance resulting in loss of power. Loose bolts, worn cables, frayed wiring and disintegrating hoses can and do happen. That's a bit sanitary but there are miles around it to write reactions, emotions and noises to build up suspense as the plane cannot maintain flight as is going down.

Also, the smaller plane would most likely begin to breakup in the trees by shearing off the wings. As it does, the fuselage can go through the thick vegetation and be slowed sufficiently to stay somewhat intact. Here, of course, the two occpants of the front seats can meet their demise easily while others in the back seats can be knocked off in various ways; flying debris, branches cutting along the side of the craft and flying internal missles come to mind.

Sorry--you got me going there. Hope this can help you.

jst5150
04-29-2006, 01:05 AM
The suggestion of microburst seems most feasible given tropical conditions and that "rain could break out at any time." :-)

aruna
04-29-2006, 09:30 AM
A couple of things here from an old pilot. First, if you're going on a sightseeing tour for a couple of hours, taking a Dakota would require a lot of paying passengers, it's noisy and it's also a very strong old bird.


Sorry--you got me going there. Hope this can help you.

Excellent points, and thanks!

Stephen DeBock
05-07-2006, 12:26 AM
The Piper Dakota is a 235-hp low-wing four-seat airplane, popular because of its ability to carry a heavier-than-average payload. Most bush planes are high-wing aircraft. Reason: a low wing could snag low-growing vegetation upon landing. Also, a high-wing plane gives unobstructed visibility downward, which makes picking a landing site easier. An earlier poster mentioned a Cessna 172 Skyhawk or 206 Stationair, both high-wing aircraft. The latter is a six-seater, commonly referred to as an aerial SUV. This is probably the more logical plane to use in the jungle. And a microburst from the thunderstorm could quite literally push it down onto and into the treetops. You can get more info, with photos, from Cessna's Web site, www.cessna.com.

aruna
09-27-2010, 04:29 PM
Hello everyone!
I'm revising this ms and am back with this scene; It's now the very first scene in the book.

I have some more questions.
What would happen inside the plane when it is crashing? As a layman I of course have the pilot yelling Mayday or Brace! Brace! bit is this credible in a small plane? WHo would he be yelling Mayday to, if that were the case? Would the plane have communication with a main airport, so far inland? Remember this is 1978, in a small 3rd world country.
Thanks!

Noah Body
09-27-2010, 06:23 PM
Yes, the mayday call is usually indicated, even if the aircraft has an ELT which will activate during a crash. He would hopefully be in communication with whatever facility was providing flight following. Is the aircraft operating under instrument flight rules, or visual flight rules?

What happens inside the aircraft depends on what is causing the crash. Are you looking for a description of what is physically happening from the passenger's perspective, or a technical description of what the pilot is/should be doing?

whacko
09-27-2010, 06:46 PM
Hi Aruna,

It all depends on the radio and instrumentation of your aeroplane, atmospheric conditions and, of course, the geographical location. So if you could let us know what you've come up with...

Also pilots usually file a flight plan so, in remote areas, if they don't turn up at the destination, the alarm is raised.

If you've decided on a truly remote location though, it may be an idea to make sure that your airyplane has the range to get from the take-off to the crash site.

Regards

Noah Body
09-27-2010, 07:09 PM
Pilots do not usually file a flight plan. Flight plan is only required if IFR is going to be observed.

aruna
09-27-2010, 07:33 PM
Thanks a mill, guys!
At the moment I still have it that the plane crashed ue to a strom, but I might change that.
The plane is a chartered flight on a sightseeing trip from Georgetown to Kaietueur Falls in Guyana, this trip. (http://www.guyanesepride.com/about/kaieteur_falls.asp) (scroll down for map). Unfortunately I don't have any details at all about the flight and don't know anyone who can help me so I'll have to just skim and skip most of the details; I just want the accident to sound realistic.

whacko
09-27-2010, 07:34 PM
Pilots do not usually file a flight plan. Flight plan is only required if IFR is going to be observed.

They can still be filed though, even with VFR. And it may be an idea if you're flying over remote territory, Guyanan rain forest, to give potential rescuers a rough idea where to start looking if you don't get to the other side.:D

Regards

Hallen
09-27-2010, 08:01 PM
I haven't got time to go read all of these, but do not go with metal fatigue or lightning. See the other thread on the lightning question.
Metal fatigue is going to cause a catastrophic failure that nobody is going to survive. When a plan falls from the sky in pieces, the resulting G impact from hitting the ground will kill everything.

I'd go with either microburst winds, which are common around large thunderstorms or simply have the pilot fly into bad visibility conditions. When there are little to no IFR infrastructure in an area, then pilots will fly VFR (visual flight rules vs instrument flight rules) They won't have any external electronic references that show them the safe path. Fly into bad weather where the clouds push down into the mountains, and you can easily find yourself in a mountain valley without enough room to turn around and fly right into bad visibility. Sooner or later, you will find the ground, usually in an unfriendly way.

Also, you don't need a storm to make a plane go down. Give them engine problems, and put them in that mountain valley again. It's going uphill, and they don't have the power to keep climbing. They try to make a tight turn to go back down the valley, but while trying to make that turn, they stall and spin. This scenario happens all the time in mountainous regions, and often even when there are no engine problems or bad weather.

PM me if you want more details on any of the scenarios. I'll try to not get too technical.

Noah Body
09-27-2010, 08:05 PM
They can still be filed though, even with VFR. And it may be an idea if you're flying over remote territory, Guyanan rain forest, to give potential rescuers a rough idea where to start looking if you don't get to the other side.:D

Regards

That's correct, but you stated that most pilots file them. That is false. Most do not, otherwise there would be thousands more plans filed by GA pilots.

Noah Body
09-27-2010, 08:11 PM
Thanks a mill, guys!
At the moment I still have it that the plane crashed ue to a strom, but I might change that.
The plane is a chartered flight on a sightseeing trip from Georgetown to Kaietueur Falls in Guyana, this trip. (http://www.guyanesepride.com/about/kaieteur_falls.asp) (scroll down for map). Unfortunately I don't have any details at all about the flight and don't know anyone who can help me so I'll have to just skim and skip most of the details; I just want the accident to sound realistic.

Mechanical difficulty would be a good bet; icing could be encountered and small a/c in 1978 traditionally did not have anti-icing gear, as the technology back then was to install inflatable boots on wings and other leading edges, and those were heavy. I don't believe weeping wings and the like were available except on jets and upscale turboprops. Ice would interfere with the ability of the a/c's wings to develop lift, as well as add more weight to the airframe. If your characters are in a small aircraft over mountainous terrain, then weight is a major concern.

Or let's make it real simple: they fly into some severe weather or ice, and then the pilot flies it into the deck. This is called controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) and while not usually survivable, it cuts to the chase and gets your survivor where he/she needs to be.

Hallen
09-27-2010, 08:14 PM
Yes, the mayday call is usually indicated, even if the aircraft has an ELT which will activate during a crash. He would hopefully be in communication with whatever facility was providing flight following. Is the aircraft operating under instrument flight rules, or visual flight rules?

What happens inside the aircraft depends on what is causing the crash. Are you looking for a description of what is physically happening from the passenger's perspective, or a technical description of what the pilot is/should be doing?

Very true my friend. But, have you ever flown in Alaska? I've been out of touch with ATC for hours up there, even when on an IFR flight plan. I'm thinking Ghana is going to be similar. You may be flight following, but if you are in a zone where there are no repeaters, and you need to deviate because of weather or engine problems, well, you're kinda screwed.

Down here in the lower 48, we have it really good. We get radio coverage and ATC radar coverage just about everywhere. It isn't the same most other places.

Aruna, both Noah and I flew for the military here in the states. Either of us could help you out on a good scenario. I'm sorry, but I just cringe every time I read something about aviation that's silly or implausible or just plain wrong. I understand you want to keep it pretty vague, and that's good. But a simple comment, or action, can add a lot of realism without being overly technical or boring. :D

Noah Body
09-27-2010, 08:19 PM
Sure, I can lose ATC commo at 300 feet with the airport still visible through the back window of the 172. :D I've never flown in Guyana though, so no idea what the coverage is there, but I would expect it to be a lot less than what I can get here in the lower 48. Always lots of opportunity for things to go wrong, and in 1978 (which is the timeframe I believe Aruna is talking about) they probably can go real bad, real fast. And when you're out of time, altitude, airspeed, and ideas, that's bad juju!

aruna
09-27-2010, 08:37 PM
Thanks to both of you! UNfortunately, there are neither mountains nor ice on that route.
Would you consider just reading the scene and telliing me if it works? It's only a page and a half long. And let me know if there's anything silly there.
Would be very grateful.

Hallen
09-27-2010, 08:40 PM
Thanks to both of you! UNfortunately, there are neither mountains nor ice on that route.
Would you consider just reading the scene and telliing me if it works? It's only a page and a half long. And let me know if there's anything silly there.
Would be very grateful.

Sure. Send me a PM and I'd be happy to read through it.

Noah Body
09-27-2010, 09:02 PM
Thanks to both of you! UNfortunately, there are neither mountains nor ice on that route.
Would you consider just reading the scene and telliing me if it works? It's only a page and a half long. And let me know if there's anything silly there.
Would be very grateful.

Sure, PM me for my email. Sorry, after quickly reading the thread thought it was over mountainous terrain, but icing can happen even near sea level.

whacko
09-28-2010, 03:02 AM
That's correct, but you stated that most pilots file them. That is false. Most do not, otherwise there would be thousands more plans filed by GA pilots.

Yes, but at the risk of flogging a dead horse, my statement was in the context of a pilot flying over rain forest, to and from unspecified locations, as per the opening posts.

Aerial
09-28-2010, 05:03 AM
Given how fast things happen in a crash-- they're only going to be a couple thousand feet up if they're sightseeing, so from something going wrong to impact will literally be a matter of seconds-- I wouldn't expect much more from the pilot beyond "We're going in" to a knowledgeable crew or "Everybody hold on" to passengers.

I would advise not using lightning for your inciting event. It's big and loud, but it really doesn't cause a lot of aircraft accidents. Wind is much more likely. Wind can shove the airplane down into the trees, flip it upside down (which an experienced pilot could recover from, but if he's too close to the ground he won't have time), or snap off a piece of the airplane (losing the rudder would be most destructive, but wouldn't be visible to the pilot). A bird strike might be another possibility, though it would take a large bird to potentially damage the engine or shatter the prop.

You can make any number of scenarios plausible. Small airplanes can go down for a lot of reasons, which is why their accident rates are much higher than most other types of aircraft. Pilots of small aircraft also tend to be less experienced and have less training than military or commercial pilots, which contributes to accidents as well.

Aerial

RJK
09-29-2010, 08:12 PM
The Dakota isn't all that small when you compare it to other twin engine AC.
http://img830.imageshack.us/img830/3604/aircraftdakota.jpg

Qbynewbie
09-29-2010, 09:22 PM
I just saw this thread for the first time. I really like Hallen's comments most. :)

Writers -- especially journalists -- so often get aviation wrong that it's surprising to see something correct sometimes. A few cooments:

There are two different planes called "Dakota". They are being confused in this thread. ;)

A plane about to crash will not usually crash in four seconds, unless it's really -- really -- close to the ground. For example, a Cessna 172 that experienced a complete engine failure 2000' above the ground would likely not hit that ground for almost three minutes and there are things that any competent pilot would be doing in those three minutes (including opening the doors)..

Metal fatigue is a *** very *** unlikely cause of a small plane crash. There are many other things that are more likely to bring a small plane down. Fuel exhaustion would be number one on my list.

Depending on what is happening, you may not be looking at a *** crash *** at all but rather an emergency landing. In that event, it may be very survivable. Do you want your pilot and passengers to survive? Many landings in treetops have no injuries, as surprising as that may be and pilots are given suggestions on how to land in the trees (aim the engine between two trunks so the wings get torn off, using up a lot of the energy if the impact).

In a true crash of a small plane, what is often left is not much more than a smear or a hole in the ground, depending on how it went in (spin in or went in fairly level). In this case, an ELT will not go off because it will also be destroyed

When flying under visual conditions, you can see storms a long way away -- often dozens of miles. Most competent pilots are not going to be accidentally caught in a thunderstorm, but that's not to say it's never happened. In a t-storm, what will likely get you is the incredibly powerful updrafts and downdrafts, rather than lightening. The winds from a strong thunderstorm can be problematic for small planes even ten miles away from the storm

I'm writing this on my iPhone on an Amtrak train bound for NYC, so it's hard to review or edit.

What is the reason for having the plane crash in the story? Do you want survivors? Do you want the pilot to be a hero or an idiot?

Qbynewbie
09-30-2010, 05:32 AM
Now that I have a few minutes on a real computer, I'll try to help straighten out the Dakota confusion.

Here's a Piper Dakota. It's a single-engine airplane with four seats and fixed landing gear (which means that the gear does not retract into the fuselage during flight).

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f9/PiperPA-28-236DakotaC-GGFSPhoto4.JPG

The Douglas Dakota was simply the name given to the C47 by the British and other countries in the Commonwealth. The C47 was a transport aircraft based on the DC-3 used by the airlines at the time. Here's a picture of that Dakota:

http://www.flyskyclass.com/gallery/douglas_dc3_dakota_large.jpg

As you can see, they are substantially different aircraft. :)

Qbynewbie
09-30-2010, 05:54 AM
Now, about small planes falling out of the air. :)

Small planes can fall out of the air for only a very few reasons:

1. Something stops the fan up front from turning. (Don't think the propeller is a fan? Turn it off and watch the pilot start to sweat! -- old joke. :)) The cause can be mechanical problems with the engine or propeller, bad fuel or fuel exhaustion. Fuel exhaustion -- basically, running out of fuel -- is the most common cause, by far. It can be due to pilot error (most of the time) or fuel leaks (sometimes).

2. Something affects the flight controls (for example, they fall off or develop a vicious vibration called "flutter", which can shake an aircraft apart in seconds. Engineers try very hard to make sure that their airplanes don't develop flutter in flight.) The flight controls on a small plane include the ailerons (on the back edge of the wing, toward the wingtip); the rudder (the movable part of the vertical tail); and the elevator (the movable part of the horizontal tail). Loss of a flight control can be a very, very dangerous condition. But you have the control stay on the plane and still lose control of it. For example, the control cable connecting a flight control to the yoke in the cabin might break. Pilots are trained to deal with these kinds of emergencies but they are still very dangerous.

3. Something affects the airframe itself. In real life, something that affects the physical integrity of the airframe is not very likely to be metal fatigue. A greater possibility would be excess speed or maneuvers above a speed called "maneuvering speed". If you maneuver a plane at too high a speed, you can cause damage to it.

4. Pilot error. An example would be a pilot who screws up the landing approach, tries to correct it, screws that up, stalls his aircraft and spins into the ground. Once you get the stall and then the spin, you are generally dead because you simply cannot recover from the spin in the amount of altitude that you likely have while in the landing process.

5. Extreme weather. Very strong wind shear, the winds inside a thunderstorm, or even the wake turbulence coming off the wings of a large airplane can be enough to cause a pilot to lose control of the plane. If the pilot doesn't regain control, then the plane will sooner or later (in some cases, it's much sooner) crash.

Qbynewbie
09-30-2010, 06:09 AM
Stalling -- the one term writers get wrong more than any other term in aviation:

In aviation, "stalling the engine" is not a meaningful thing to say. Instead, "stall" refers to the wings and the lift that they are producing. A plane can fly because the wings produce enough lift that the force of the lift overcomes the force due to gravity. If the wing gets into a situation where it can no longer produce enough lift to overcome the force of gravity, then plane will begin to descend. In many situations, this is the desired outcome (think of landings -- you really do want the plane to come down :)). But there are different ways to reduce the amount of life a wing can produce.

One way is to change the airspeed. A plane just sitting still on the ground isn't producing any lift unless there's wind around it. But take that same plane and accelerate it down a runway and the wings will begin to develop more and more lift and, at some speed, will be developing enough lift to overcome gravity. At that point, the plane will begin to ascend.

A pilot can control the altitude of the plane in two basic ways: by adding or subtracting power, or by changing the angle at which the wings meet the oncoming air. If you are flying straight and level and you increase the power of the engine and do nothing else, you will begin to climb. If you don't want to climb, you push the nose down just enough to maintain your altitude and the increased power will then be transformed into forward thrust and the plane will go faster. So adding power while in flight can make the plane go faster or higher or some combination of the above.

If you are in level flight and you pull back on the yoke, the nose of the plane will rise. If you only pull back a bit, you'll begin to climb but your airspeed will also decrease because you only have a certain amount of thrust coming off the engine. If you start using some of that thrust to climb then the amount available for forward thrust will be decreased and you'll go a bit slower.

If you keep on pulling back on that yoke, you'll climb more and more steeply as your airspeed deteriorates. At some point, you'll have the nose pointed up at a steep enough angle that the wings can no longer develop enough lift to overcome gravity. At that point, we say that the wings have stalled. Notice that the engine is still running perfectly fine.

A stall is a potentially dangerous condition that can easily lead to a spin, which can be a very dangerous condition, especially close to the ground. Every single pilot learns how to determine that a stall might be imminent and how to correct a stall (push the yoke forward). Recovering from a stall is easy and needs to be ingrained into pilots. Consequently, it's something that pilots learn, train on a lot and are tested on before they can get a license.

The CAA (predecessor to the FAA) used to mandate spin training up until the 1950s (I think). They quit mandating when the realized that more student pilots were dying in the course of spin training than pilots were dying in the spins the training was designed to prevent.

debirlfan
09-30-2010, 07:36 AM
One quick note - usually the last words on the cockpit voice record are the pilot saying "Oh &%@#!"

Qbynewbie
09-30-2010, 07:50 AM
:D

aruna
09-30-2010, 07:42 PM
Hey that's great stuff! Thanks!
I think maybe the best option for me is a severe thunderstorm -- as it now stands -- combined with pilot incompetence, and/or making it an old machine that really shouldn't ne up in the air at all -- I could work that information into the dialogue before the storm.
My biggest problem right now is how to get the two protags sitting next to each other on a six-seater -- in reality everyone would have a window seat, but I want them together!

Noah Body
09-30-2010, 08:22 PM
They will be sitting next to each other... the aisle isn't much of an aisle at all, and the rearmost seats are almost always right next to each other. In a Beechcraft Baron, it's tough for normal-sized folks not to rub shoulders!

http://listings.bhamjet.com/ListingImages/2007BaronInterior2.jpg

Noah Body
09-30-2010, 08:23 PM
5. Extreme weather. Very strong wind shear, the winds inside a thunderstorm, or even the wake turbulence coming off the wings of a large airplane can be enough to cause a pilot to lose control of the plane. If the pilot doesn't regain control, then the plane will sooner or later (in some cases, it's much sooner) crash.

And not to mention control forces can damage the aircraft as well... in more than a few incidents, the horizontal stabs on an aircraft in heavy turbulence have failed downward, resulting in the a/c burying its nose in the dirt. This is generally tough on all involved.

aruna
09-30-2010, 08:51 PM
I don't think it would have been as stylish and luxious as that -- they used pretty basic macines! But as long as it is conceivable -- I'll assume that it worked!
Thanks to all! Great info.

Noah Body
09-30-2010, 11:19 PM
The Baron's been flying since the 1950s, but the format is pretty much the same for a Piper or a Cessna--six seaters flying in 1978 that could be owned and operated by a low-rent charter service (if that's what we're talking about here) all pretty much used aircraft of the same general type.

Qbynewbie
10-01-2010, 02:19 AM
Yup.

If there are only two in the plane, they'd sit in the front seats, next to each other. If more than two, you'll need to put them in the same row, assuming one isn't the pilot.

One idea might be to have them be making a flight at the extreme edge of the plane's range (depends on model but maybe 500 miles). If a storm system comes up between them and the only airport in the area, their only option would be to circle and hope the storm moves away from the airport quickly enough or look for an emergency landing spot. If they'd been fighting a headwind on the flight, the flight would have taken longer than anticipated, eating into their fuel reserves. If the ground below is inhospitable, they might try to wait out the storm. If it's a fast-moving storm, that might be a reasonable (or at least believable) decision.

The sputtering of the engine is the first clue that they're not gonna win this bet. And then we can put them down in the trees and make them all live, all die or some combination of the above, depending on what you need and have it all be really believable.

This basic scenario is responsible for crashes and emergency landings on a regular basis in real life.

Qbynewbie
10-01-2010, 02:37 AM
Another advantage of fuel exhaustion as your cause is that it will result in some period of time in which the pilot is taking actions to bring the plane down as safely as possible and the passengers are in mortal fear for their lives. The time between the last gasps of the engine and touching down can be determined by the needs of your story. If you want to write a scene that allows them all to interact and for suspense to build, put the plane 3000' above the ground. At maybe 700 feet per minute, they'll have about four minutes to ponder their lives and their fate.

On that time, we can tell you roughly what the pilot would have done and roughly the order in which he'd do them. Most pilots are fairly competent so his or her actions would be fairly predictable.

Qbynewbie
10-01-2010, 02:41 AM
Finally, if you're bringing the plane down in the treetops, it could land safely and dangle. That's a very reasonable event. Or hit the trees, have the wings sheared off and the fuselage plunge 80' to the ground, where all perish. Or it could come to a rest safely in the trees but with some large-ish limbs protruding into the fuselage and through the bodies or heads of the ones you want to kill off. :D

aruna
10-01-2010, 10:55 AM
I don't think fuel exhaustion could work; they'd surely have enough fuel to get there and back, and this is the outward flight. Maybe a thunderstorm with high winds and the pilot making some really amateur mistake? A lot of boys wanted to be pilots and I could have this being one of his first flights ever -- maybe a friend of the protag.

Anaximander
10-01-2010, 11:43 AM
If the clouds are impeding visibility, then a spiral divergence could also quite easily down the aircraft. Basically, if the aircraft is rolled slightly to one side and then the controls are relaxed, it will begin to spiral slowly downward. As it spirals, it tips further over, which makes it turn tighter. The problem is that you can't feel it - the way the forces work out, the resultant acceleration on the aircraft is through its vertical axis, so if you close your eyes - or fly into thick cloud - then it feels like you're just climbing hard, pressing you down into your seat, and you can't feel the turn. In some aircraft - especially older or smaller aircraft, ones with less sophisticated instrumentations - the instruments can't detect it either, because the gyro is confused in exactly the same way as the human inner ear. The instinctive move, especially for an inexperienced pilot who doesn't recognise it as a spiral dive, is to try to level off by pushing forward on the stick. Now, the big problem with this is that once the turn becomes tight enough, this is nearly impossible - or worse, in some cases it can tear the wings off. In a lot of cases, though, the pilot just keeps on wrestling with the aircraft until it comes out of the bottom of the clouds, at which point they discover that instead of being upright like they thought, the plane is actually at right-angles to the horizon and stuck in a downward spiral. Unable to break out of said spiral, they continue straight into the ground. It is possible to break out of the spiral if you know how - I've been on a test-flight where the pilot put the aircraft into a spiral dive on purpose and let it get to about eighty degrees off horizontal before recovering - but to an inexperienced pilot, it can be very dangerous.

Qbynewbie
10-01-2010, 05:22 PM
I don't think fuel exhaustion could work; they'd surely have enough fuel to get there and back, and this is the outward flight. Maybe a thunderstorm with high winds and the pilot making some really amateur mistake? A lot of boys wanted to be pilots and I could have this being one of his first flights ever -- maybe a friend of the protag.

Ah, pesky plot details. :D

You could work fuel exhaustion into it by having a fuel leak from the tanks or using a scenario that happens in real life: having the gas cap on the wing be left off after fueling. This almost happened to me once. What happens is that suction from the air passing over the wing pulls fuel out of the tank. In a high-winged Cessna, the tanks are in the wings and they are cross-connected, so you can have a missing gas cap pull the fuel out of the wing and then essentially siphon it out of the tank in the other wing, too. It will take a little while but not terribly, terribly long, either.

By the way, a high-winged plane (like most Cessnas) would be the best for sight-seeing since the wing is above the windows, rather than below it, and the view is better for the passengers.

If you really have to use a storm to down the plane, you have them get too close to a thunderstorm (a dumb mistake but pilots make them occasionally) and heavy winds cause the pilot to lose control of the plane. A spiral (mentioned above) could work but only in the clouds -- in visual flight you'd know exactly what was going on and correct it. Even an inexperienced pilot will know enough not to fly into the clouds (one hopes). But heavy winds near a thunderstorm would be believable. However, this leads to a different problem if you want anyone to survive the accident.

Loss of control in heavy winds that leads to a crash (as opposed to an emergency landing under control, as might be the case with fuel exhaustion) would very likely be an unsurvivable accident. So if you want to kill them all off, that's not a bad scenario. If you want some or all of them to live, then the most believable thing would be a landing where the pilot has managed to maintain some level of control and fly it all the way to the ground. Those are the accidents that people survive and, surprisingly, represent 90% of the accidents in real life. Yep, people walk away from 90% of emergency landings/crashes that occur in real life. :)

debirlfan
10-02-2010, 06:11 AM
Just a thought - how competent/strict is the local equivalent of the FAA in Guyana? I'm just guessing, but it wouldn't surprise me if the requirements to get a pilot's license (and to fly passengers) were a bit more lax than in the states. What if the pilot had a medical problem, like a heart attack - or passed out (diabetic? drugs?) The other person setting up front might be able to grab the controls and keep them from augering in, but not prevent a crash (especially if pilot had collapsed onto the controls.)

You could always drop some "hints" before the collapse - pilot rubbing his chest, muttering about what he'd eaten, swallowing a handful of TUMS....

whacko
10-04-2010, 01:33 PM
Fuel exhaustion.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1317353/Tennessee-plane-crash-British-trainee-pilot-killed-fuel-runs-mid-air.html

Qbynewbie
10-04-2010, 06:23 PM
Sigh.

The linked article is a good example of what is probably pretty bad reporting and also pretty bad aviation.

The headline states that the plane "falls from the sky". Well, unless the pilots in the plane forgot absolutely everything from their training (not likely, since it was just in the recent past), the plane almost certainly didn't "fall from the sky", but glided down fairly normally, probably at a rate about 1.5 times as fast as they'd use for a normal landing. They ran out of fuel and the engine stopped but the wings didn't fall off so they were then in a position where they had to make an emergency landing. All three of them had to prove to an examiner that they could do this before getting their license.

But they still ran into a tree and two of them died. This was an entirely, utterly preventable and completely unnecessary accident. They simply pushed their fuel too close to the limit and ran out. They should not have been flying in any event with less than a half hour of fuel on board (that's the law) and probably not less than an hour's worth (the rule that I follow). They were probably pushing on and, like kids often do, figured "we can make it". It's a very bad mistake and one pilots make all too often.

I hope the one who is still living survives. RIP to the other two. What a terrible shame.

Noah Body
10-04-2010, 06:33 PM
The reporting an GA is usually abysmal, since aviation is pure fxcking magic to most journalists. Kind of like the military, only not quite as "evil".

aruna
10-04-2010, 07:45 PM
Sigh.

The linked article is a good example of what is probably pretty bad reporting and also pretty bad aviation.
.

That's Daily Mail reporting for you.
Many of the comments beneath the article make similar points.

I do like the fuel exhaustion reason as it seems the most likely, especially if it's an old machine and fuel leaked out; but for sheer atmosphere and drama I still cling to the storm, so maybe I can combine the two... and work it into the onboard panic somehow.
Thanks once again to everybody... if this beast ever gets published I'll certainly acknowledge all of you!

Kenn
10-04-2010, 08:15 PM
If you want to know what it's like to crash in the jungle look at this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSzELW4h4BE

This fellow is called Jeremy Wade and he was making a TV programme about catching a giant fish that lives in the Amazon. The crash was real.

Qbynewbie
10-04-2010, 08:48 PM
That's Daily Mail reporting for you.
Many of the comments beneath the article make similar points.

I do like the fuel exhaustion reason as it seems the most likely, especially if it's an old machine and fuel leaked out; but for sheer atmosphere and drama I still cling to the storm, so maybe I can combine the two... and work it into the onboard panic somehow.
Thanks once again to everybody... if this beast ever gets published I'll certainly acknowledge all of you!

If it gets published, I will buy your book! :)

Qbynewbie
10-04-2010, 08:49 PM
If you want to know what it's like to crash in the jungle look at this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSzELW4h4BE

This fellow is called Jeremy Wade and he was making a TV programme about catching a giant fish that lives in the Amazon. The crash was real.

Thanks for posting this. I hadn't seen it before.