A different kind of LSD trip
September 22, 2013 7:00 PM   Subscribe

Early this morning, pilot John Pedersen encountered mechanical difficulties and made an emergency landing on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago [photos].

Pedersen made the decision to land on LSD (a major artery near the heart of downtown Chicago [map]) after experiencing tail-control issues in his Rans S-6ES Coyote II, a two-seater fixed-wing kit plane that he had built in 2003 (N24145). Pedersen walked away from the landing unscathed and nobody else was hurt, although two passing cars reportedly clipped the plane but neglected to stop. Emergency personnel helped move the plane off the thoroughfare [aftermath video].
posted by Westringia F. (49 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
You know, there used to be an airport right near there. Until it had an unfortunate encounter with some bulldozers in the middle of the night.
posted by hoyland at 7:04 PM on September 22, 2013 [40 favorites]


"Two cars hit the airplane after it landed, then sped off, Pedersen said."

I bet there's going to be huge betting pools in the insurance companies on how that "ought" to get handled correctly.
posted by boo_radley at 7:05 PM on September 22, 2013


boo_radley: "be huge betting pools in the insurance companies "

I'm sorry, I meant "huge actuarial tables".
posted by boo_radley at 7:08 PM on September 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


That DNAInfo site is surprisingly good. Always well-written, informative, they cover local topics that you wouldn't hear about otherwise and pleasantly surprising because the name always made me think of spam or content mills. But that article was 100% better than that hot mess Tribune piece.
posted by bleep at 7:14 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rans S-6ES Coyote II

FABRIC COVERED wings? That isn't an airplane, it's a kite with a motor.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:14 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


> You know, there used to be an airport right near there. Until it had an unfortunate encounter with some bulldozers in the middle of the night.

Yep, Meigs Field would have been only a mile and a half away.
posted by Westringia F. at 7:14 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh. I only knew Meigs field because that is where the original Microsoft Flight Simulator (running on intel 8088 cpu with 4 color CGA graphics) started you off. Taken off from there (virtually) many times in the '80s.
posted by smcameron at 7:18 PM on September 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Taken off from there (virtually) many times in the '80s. Me too. It was amazing when I went to Chicago as an adult and found out how few transparent line-drawing buildings there really are there.
posted by escabeche at 7:21 PM on September 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


As of Flight Sim 2000, it still is the home field. :)

And yeah, as soon as I saw LSD, I thought of Mayor Daley and his midnight decommissioning of the airport.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:22 PM on September 22, 2013


Related (and my first metafilter post): Meigs Field X-ed Out.
posted by letitrain at 7:28 PM on September 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Having never been to Chicago my first thought when reading this post was "What about Meigs field? Did he just not even try?"

I mean he could have pushed Y for slew mode and gotten much closer
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:38 PM on September 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Needs more dashcam footage.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 7:39 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


FABRIC COVERED wings? That isn't an airplane, it's a kite with a motor.

In that case, a kite with a motor was first to fly New York to Paris non-stop. Fabric over a wooden or metal frame was the way to build an airplane for the first 30 or so years of flight.
posted by ddbeck at 7:41 PM on September 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Right, fabric covering was state of the art during World War 1. This plane was not flight-worthy.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:55 PM on September 22, 2013


While having almost fallen out of the sky may be a strong indicator as to this particular aircraft's air-worthiness, having a fabric skin has no bearing on the issue.
posted by tigrrrlily at 8:07 PM on September 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


FABRIC COVERED wings? That isn't an airplane, it's a kite with a motor.

You tell that to a PBY Catalina, which had fully fabric wings, or the Vought Corsair, which had partially fabric wings. Or, if you're down on fabric anywhere on an aircraft, tell it to a Hurricane. I dare you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:39 PM on September 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, fabric and wood was used in a surprising number of planes during the Second World War. And a lot of those were damn good planes.
posted by Justinian at 8:40 PM on September 22, 2013


I've always wondered what happens to airplanes that land on roadways with mechanical difficulties. What happens next? Do they fix the problems and take off again? How exactly does one request take off clearance from a highway? What if there's not enough room to take off without hitting obstructions? Do they get carted away on trucks?
posted by fremen at 8:40 PM on September 22, 2013


They're humanely euthanized.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:41 PM on September 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wonder if he broke any road rules and, if so, which ones. Failure to indicate a descent? Failure to display a registration sticker? Fewer than two passengers in a high-occupancy lane?
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:49 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those who believe that fabric is not a suitable covering material for aircraft structures really don't know what they are talking about. This is not about WW1 or the Wrights---capable, modern aircraft that (e.g.) haul cargo into the Alaskan bush are made with "rag and tube" even today. I don't think you would call them kites if you saw them in person.

Engineers choose to use these materials in certain settings because they are correct for the job, not because of nostalgia. Airplane design is one of those fields where you can't really cheat physics, not even a little bit. If it offends your aesthetics that you could stab a screwdriver through the wing, so be it---there are plenty of Maule or Super Cub or Pawnee pilots who will just shrug and go back to flying their payloads instead of a bunch of heavy aluminum.

(Speaking of aircraft aluminum, it's not like that stuff is adamantium either...)
posted by tss at 9:01 PM on September 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ha, good question Joe. Hell, pickup trucks aren't even allowed on Lake Shore Drive, but now planes are ok?
posted by gueneverey at 9:05 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


While you may disagree with fabric as a choice for aircraft, consider that the three to four millimeter thick aluminum skin on a jetliner ain't exactly holding it together either.
posted by zippy at 9:12 PM on September 22, 2013


I spent much of my childhood falling asleep in the single back seat of my dad's 1948 (I think) Aeronca Champ, whose fabric I helped remove from the metal skeleton when it was time to re-cover the fuselage in the mid-80s. (Ah, golden memories - learning about stripped screw threads and the curses that grown men use when faced with same.) So I'd extend those "first 30 or so years of flight" to first half-century, really.

Come to think, if you count carbon-fiber as a fabric, there are still lots of fancy planes made of fabric.

Topic - I think it's weird that the pilot had to do this, but of course where I grew up, private pilots generally knew how to land in a field and there was usually a field or acceptable substitute handy even if their flight plan didn't explicitly include one. Here's an article from a few years back by a small pilot bemoaning road landings and pointing out that "(r)egardless of destination, once reaching a safe altitude of 800 to 1,000 feet above ground level (agl), a savvy pilot always has in mind a place to land his airplane." He then goes on to point out all the reasons roads are not as nice to land on as fields - cars, mailboxes, power lines, and the like. But he also points out that since the FAA basically shut down all the grass strips, nobody gets experience landing on grass.

I am not a pilot and I don't know Chicago well, so I am reserving judgment. It's taking effort, though.
posted by gingerest at 9:14 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Two cars hit the airplane after it landed, then sped off, Pedersen said."

Pederson added that he also fought off two carjackers before a gang of youths accosted him in what is called a "knockout game."

He left the youths in a bruised sobbing pile and then mentioned something about smoked kippers for breakfast.
posted by codswallop at 9:30 PM on September 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm glad that there were no injuries, and I know it would have been a lot less convenient for him and his little plane, but there was that Lake just a few yards east he could have put it down in without risking landing on a minivan full of kids or careening into a building.
posted by Reverend John at 9:32 PM on September 22, 2013


My guess is that the wings can unbolt without too much trouble and then they can fit everything on a flatbed. Probably how they got it from whatever garage he built it in to the airport in the first place.
posted by ckape at 9:38 PM on September 22, 2013


Because it's a seaplane? Check out the fixed landing gear, for starters...
posted by indubitable at 9:39 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reverend John: "I'm glad that there were no injuries, and I know it would have been a lot less convenient for him and his little plane, but there was that Lake just a few yards east he could have put it down in without risking landing on a minivan full of kids or careening into a building."

and then drowning.
posted by boo_radley at 9:39 PM on September 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


There's no buildings around there, it's in the middle of a park. Maybe he could have landed in the park but there's also trees there. And people unprotected by large metal structures. And I really don't think that plane would have survived landing in the water. When something like this turns out okay I don't think you can second-guess someone's decisions.
posted by bleep at 9:47 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Come to think, if you count carbon-fiber as a fabric, there are still lots of fancy planes made of fabric.

There are still a fair number of of airplanes sold new with straight-up doped synthetic fabric. There will be people working in factories tomorrow morning to put fabric onto wings and fuselages of planes and other aircraft. Such as: In other words, you don't have to appeal to carbon fiber. Fabric is not just for the first 30 or even 50 years of flight---it's an up-to-date technology that happens to have been used in revenue-generating aircraft (i.e. not toys) for around 110 years, and will probably be used for another 110.
posted by tss at 9:49 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


They're humanely euthanized.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe

Xeny, please stop effectorizing the aircraft.
posted by tigrrrlily at 10:06 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


there was that Lake just a few yards east he could have put it down in

That's a pretty bad idea. Landing on water almost always ends poorly. On the other hand, landing a small plane on a highway is pretty normal in an emergency. I think maybe you are overestimating the weight or landing speed of these sort of small planes.
posted by ryanrs at 10:27 PM on September 22, 2013


At 6 am on a Sunday, Lake shore isn't a bad place to set down. Any later time, or any other day, he'd be pretty much SOL.
posted by wotsac at 11:17 PM on September 22, 2013


I took off out in Schaumburg, filed my flight plan with the feds
Concrete mountains down below, the lake and sun ahead
Suddenly I heard the snap as my small plane took a dive
There was no finer sight to see than an empty Lake Shore Drive

And there ain't no runway like it
Anywhere I've found
Landing my plane on Lake Shore Drive
Flyin' in the middle of town
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:10 AM on September 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


> What happens next?

Being generally assembled out of parts smaller than the vehicle's full size, airplanes can be disassembled and removed in a worst-case scenario. Ideally, the mechanical issue that put you down can be resolved and you can take off again.
Not having seen the place, I can't really comment on Lake Shore Drive, but I imagine it has too many obstructions to make this a good idea. However it has happened at least once that a light aircraft pilot was forced to put down and chose a highway - and later took off from that same highway when their airplane was once again airworthy.

(Being a kit-built, this is closer to an ultralight than a light aircraft, and likely much easier to dissemble into shippable parts, particularly given its fabric-covered wings. I'd guess that's how it's going to be taken care of rather than a comparatively risky takeoff, for which emergency services would obviously close the road and surrounds.)
posted by tiaz at 12:19 AM on September 23, 2013


What happens next?

Yeah, unbolt the wings and that thing would easily fit on a flatbed. It will probably need a complete rebuild anyway, so this isn't exactly making things any worse.

Hell, pickup trucks aren't even allowed on Lake Shore Drive, but now planes are ok?

Air traffic is federally regulated, and it looks like road landings -- any type of landing, in fact -- is pretty much legal after you've declared a flight emergency. If there is some other type of intent or mischief involved, like illegal stunt flying through the Loop, for instance, you may end up facing charges for that.

there was that Lake just a few yards east he could have put it down in

Exactly, just ask Otis Redding (over cigarettes and coffee) -- I'm sure it's a great story.

As far as it being the best of bad options, I'm not sure if I'd been in that situation (note, I am no pilot) whether I wouldn't have preferred to try the Museum Campus, such as the street "behind" the Field, or one of the Soldier Field parking lots, or Campus Drive, or Solidarity Drive, or the Grant Park softball fields -- or even the prairie terrain of Northerly Island where Meigs used to be -- but then I wasn't in the pilot's seat and I don't know what his options really were. I'm pretty sure he didn't have time to think about it very much.
posted by dhartung at 12:53 AM on September 23, 2013


Yeah, there's that lake just a few yards east he could have just landed in... since it's much easier to dodge all those docked boats in Monroe Harbor than the stopped cars on LSD.

Of course, a real pro would have glided a bit south and landed in Soldier Field, on the 50 yard line. Da Coach would approve.
posted by sldownard at 12:55 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, the old Soldier Field was sort of open at one end, but this new one seems to have a rather effective plane-catcher built into it. I say this only because I can think of no other logical explanation for its existence.
posted by dhartung at 1:29 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


> coulda just landed in the lake

Not really, no, at least not with such an auspicious outcome. In a fixed gear plane not equipped with floats, the gear will "grab" the water. Water exerts much more drag than air, and so the airplane would flip over _very_ violently and probably come to rest on its back and woe betide those inside who were just subject to those frame-bending accelerations.
If you'd like a visual aid, consider http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6e3n1RYvsI .
posted by tiaz at 1:45 AM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fewer than two passengers in a high-occupancy lane?
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:49 PM on September 22


Oddly, there are no HOV lanes in the Chicago metro area to the best of my knowledge. The closest we have to that is certain areas where mass transit busses are allowed to ride the shoulder.
posted by hwestiii at 3:26 AM on September 23, 2013


As far as it being the best of bad options, I'm not sure if I'd been in that situation (note, I am no pilot) whether I wouldn't have preferred to try the Museum Campus, such as the street "behind" the Field, or one of the Soldier Field parking lots, or Campus Drive, or Solidarity Drive, or the Grant Park softball fields -- or even the prairie terrain of Northerly Island where Meigs used to be -- but then I wasn't in the pilot's seat and I don't know what his options really were.

Other than the road leading to the Planetarium, none of the roads around there are really straight, as I recall. It's got to be easier to land on Lake Shore Drive than on that road to the Planetarium. I expect you can still reasonably land on Northerly Island--as I recall, the center is still pretty flat. But I also expect if that were clearly a better idea that Lake Shore Drive, air traffic control would have tried to send him there.

I seem to recall hearing at some point that the expressways were designed to have straight stretches long enough to land a (sizeable) plane on. I have no idea if this is true, but, if you think about it, Lake Shore Drive is similarly practical in an emergency and perhaps moreso because you can do what this guy did and try to land when traffic is stopped.
posted by hoyland at 4:58 AM on September 23, 2013


What happens next?

You can usually take the wings off and put the whole thing on a flatbed. Pretty easy with this particular airplane, I believe, especially since the fuel isn't stored in the wings like most planes.

If you've done something boneheaded like run out of fuel, there have been instances where someone has just brought fuel to the plane and the police shut down the road so the plane could take off again. There was one particularly bad example (and I believe it's even on YouTube but I can't find it right now) where a guy landed his plane on a road without any damage at all and then totaled it trying to take off again.

As mentioned above, roads aren't always the best choice for landing sites because of all of the power lines and signs and other obstacles you have to avoid. Power lines especially are incredibly hard to see from the air and you could find yourself falling instead of floating that last couple hundred feet to the ground.

Looking at that area on the map, the road seems like a good choice. Not much else around that is long, flat, and relatively unobstructed.

(I love that Rans also sells bicycles. Great throwback to the beginnings of aviation.)
posted by backseatpilot at 5:15 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


A fabric airplane repaired with duct tape after a bear attack, previously on MetaFilter. (I'll give you 3 guesses as to what state that happened in, and the first 2 don't count.)
posted by TedW at 6:29 AM on September 23, 2013


I'll give you 3 guesses as to what state that happened in

Desperation?
 
posted by Herodios at 9:31 AM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Looking at that area on the map, the road seems like a good choice. Not much else around that is long, flat, and relatively unobstructed.

Folks, look harder. In any case where LSD & Balbo was a choice, Columbus Drive and Balbo was an even better choice, because there's much less traffic on Columbus than Lake Shore.

Indeed, if you look south of Balbo, between Lake Shore Drive and Columbus Drive, you see a big flat empty field with baseball diamonds on it, and if I had to make an emergency landing in something this small -- something that's not going to need much rollout to stop -- I'd have headed right for that big grassy field and not for one of the busier roads in Chicago. BTW, yes, that plane can land on grass, and take off again. Indeed, he could, if he was on that field, quite easily fix the problem and take off again.

There is something *just not right* about this story. Indeed, a perfectly valid place to have landed that plane in an emergency would have been where Meigs use to be! So, why LSD?

Air traffic is federally regulated, and it looks like road landings -- any type of landing, in fact -- is pretty much legal after you've declared a flight emergency.

You are not legally allowed to enter a prohibited area, so don't declare an emergency and try to land in front of the White House, but once you've declared an emergency, the rule is pretty much you can do what you need to do to save lives. Of course, you're also responsible for not making things worse, so landing on a highway and causing a massive pileup would be bad.
posted by eriko at 1:11 PM on September 23, 2013


It was amazing when I went to Chicago as an adult and found out how few transparent line-drawing buildings there really are there.

"Few"?
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:16 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I love that Rans also sells bicycles. Great throwback to the beginnings of aviation.

Oh wow, I'm so glad you pointed it out -- hadn't noticed myself. And recumbents at that! My knee-jerk snark impulse would ordinarily compel me to mutter something cynical about hipsters, but I can't; it's just too fitting. If I worked there I would defy everything I know about physics just to try rigging one of their wings to a tandem bike.
posted by Westringia F. at 4:40 PM on September 23, 2013


Recumbents aren't hipster gear at all. The stereotypical recumbent rider is either a speed freak with a bike fairing who calls it a "human-powered vehicle," or a middle-aged fat man with a big grin who calls it a "lawn chair on wheels." (Guess which one I am!)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:08 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


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