Dramatic audio caught a 21-year-old student pilot on a damaged plane being coached by a flight instructor — who offered reassuring words to help her land safely without the front wheel.
Taylor Hash took off in the single-engine Diamond Star at Michigan’s Oakland County International Airport on March 24, but lost the front wheel as she cleared the runway.
Alerted by another pilot about the startling incident, the air-traffic controller radioed Hash.
“Your entire front wheel assembly is on the runway,” she says, according to audio from LiveATC.net.
“Roger, should I remain in the pattern,” Hash replies, referring to a flying circuit around an airport.
At that point, the voice of veteran pilot and flight instructor Chris Yates comes on the air as he asks if she is a student pilot.
“Are you by yourself?” he says.
“I am solo,” she answers, her voice composed but hinting a bit of alarm.
When he informs her he is a flight instructor and asks if she needs assistance, she sounds relieved and replies: “I would love a bit of assistance.”
“All right, go ahead and set yourself for a normal pattern, keep your plane under control and make sure you look through your checklists,” Yates says.
He then dispenses with the official aviation lingo in an effort to calm the newbie pilot.
“OK, kiddo, just keep that stick all the way back and let it down nice and easy – nice and smooth,” Yates says.
She then asks if she should treat the emergency as a “soft field landing,” a maneuver in which the pilot performs a soft touchdown by maintaining as much lift as possible after landing and keeping the front wheel aloft to prevent sinking.
“Absolutely, kiddo! Keep that stick all the way back,” says Yates, who then asks for her name.
When she says it’s Taylor, he says: “Taylor, this is Chris. My daughter’s name is Taylor and I taught her how to fly. We’re gonna be just fine, kiddo. This is no big deal. It’s just gonna make a little bit of noise.”
When he asks how she’s doing moments later, she replies: “I’m OK, I just can’t wait for this to be over.”
Yates then asks if she plans to pursue a career as a pilot.
“I was planning on it,” she answers, chuckling nervously.
“This is a good start. This is a good story to your legacy,” Yates says.
After performing a flyby to observe the wind sock, Hash goes around and prepares for the big moment, which Yates prepares her for by telling her how to keep the crippled aircraft under control after landing.
“Hold it off, hold it off, I like it. Right there. Nice job!” he says triumphantly. “Proud of you! That was awesome, Taylor, awesome!”
Hash told WXYZ on Wednesday that everything appeared to be going normally at first.
“I didn’t feel anything on the takeoff roll that would have indicated there was an issue,” she told the outlet.
“I didn’t know what to do in that moment,” Hash said after she was informed about the missing gear. “You can hear it in my voice on the audio that I’m kind of freaking out and figuring out how I’m gonna land this plane safely.”
The budding aviator said that if Yates hadn’t played guardian angel, “It’s hard to think about what could have happened. The plane could’ve ended up in the grass, in the dirt, flipped over.”
The two pilots said they were overcome with emotion and cried after the emergency was over.
“I landed, the plane stopped and that’s kind of when I melted down a bit,” Hash said.
The two plan to celebrate by flying together to Vegas at the end of April.
“Somebody with six hours solo and 57 total hours flight time doesn’t handle the plane like that,” Yates, the former director of aviation at SpaceX, told the outlet. “I hope all the airlines are paying attention to this kid right now.”