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Answer the Challenge: What Would You Do?

A pilot friend of mine posed an interesting question to me some time ago after looking at my book and its scenario format. He asked what I would do if a vulture smashed through the windshield of my airplane during flight? This is assuming a small plane such as a Cessna 172. Other than what should be the immediate response of flying the plane (after possibly yelling in surprise), what sort of challenges would this pose? And how could you overcome them? Apparently, this had happened to someone he knew.

Imagine the scene: you now have a giant hole in your windshield from the avian kamikaze. It’s a big mess in the cockpit. Wind is rushing into the cockpit, making radio communication difficult. Any unsecured pieces of paper would have taken flight themselves. But what about flying the plane? Would you notice anything different from the gaping hole in terms of handling characteristics and aerodynamics?

The answer, he said, is yes. What you would have is a sudden increase in drag! Your airspeed would begin to drop, and this is the sort of thing that could escape your attention as you’re overcoming the surprise of your unwelcome visitor by focusing on what’s inside the cockpit. If you did notice this change, a pilot’s instinct is to increase throttle and/or lower the nose depending on the situation. Doing this, you’d have a good chance of maintaining airspeed and safely landing as quickly as possible and practicable.

But there is another simple thing you could do that would not only go a long way toward reducing the drag, but also make the cockpit environment a little more comfortable for the remainder of your flight. Do you know what it is? Have any thoughts or opinions on the subject? Or has this even happened to you? Leave your comment below or email me! At the end of the month of December, I’ll announce here who was the first to come up with the correct answer, or at the very least the most creative one. The prize is a free signed copy of Flight Emergency!

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