Not the cheapest way to get a helicopter ride
August 21, 2019 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Recently, David Lesh (owner of the Virtika sportswear company) purchased a 1979 Beechcraft Bonanza. Yesterday, August 20, he crashed it in to Half Moon Bay, California. He and his passenger were unharmed, and Coast Guard SAR picked them up about 45 minutes after the accident. Here he is talking with Aviation YouTuber Matt Guthmiller about the crash, including video of the crash itself.

Lesh was flying over the bay with another aircraft in order to do some aerial photography work, which resulted in some incredibly rare footage of an aircraft ditching in the water (as well as an incredibly timely rescue).

If you feel like trying this maneuver for yourself (note: do not try this maneuver for yourself), here is all the information the FAA provides for a water landing (scroll to section 6-3-3).
posted by backseatpilot (12 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Plane crash corner!
posted by phlyingpenguin at 1:54 PM on August 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Calm & competent aviation people radio is my ASMR.
posted by bleep at 2:03 PM on August 21, 2019 [12 favorites]

Two things stuck out at me from his interview with Guthmiller:

1) Debris in the fuel is a no-go, period. It is not normal to find "particles" in the fuel, and sumping until you don't find more isn't a good indication that they're all gone - they likely won't flow like water contamination, and there's a good likelihood that your fuel strainer is already clogged if you start finding debris. This accident was avoidable.

2) Flying that far out over water without flotation devices is a bad idea. We keep life preservers in our planes (same ones you'd wear in an airliner, actually) since our club pilots do a lot of flying to the Cape and islands over water. Whether I could actually put one on while simultaneously dealing with the emergency is another question. I know many pilots prefer to wear sturdier PFDs for the entire flight if they are planning to go over water so they don't have to fumble for it in the event they need it.

They're both incredibly lucky that they had a spotter who could call in the emergency immediately, the water was relatively calm, and they had communication with the other pilot to direct him back to their location after he drifted away.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:11 PM on August 21, 2019 [33 favorites]


Also this story is crazy and it's fun in that way that stories walking the line between life and death and end up in "life" at the end are fun.
posted by GuyZero at 2:23 PM on August 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

I did a lot of my pilot training in the Bay Area including probably 30 touch-and-goes at Half Moon Bay. It never occurred to me to take the plane so far offshore I couldn't glide back. Then again I wasn't doing air-to-air photography either. I do remember many long discussions about the likelihood of surviving a "water landing" just off the beach. The terrain around there is so rocky and the beaches so short there aren't really any good flat places to put down.

The Bonanza has the nickname "doctor killer" after a series of unfortunate accidents involving, well, doctors-turned-amateur-pilots. But the stereotype there was it was just a little too much airplane for a new pilot to handle, a little too fast and with the exciting risk of forgetting to put the retractable landing gear down. Not sure "engine failure because of contaminated fuel" fits that profile.
posted by Nelson at 2:24 PM on August 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

posted by backseatpilot at 16:11 on August 21
Eponysteering, nice.
posted by hypersloth at 2:39 PM on August 21, 2019 [14 favorites]

*buys own pfd*
We ve unfortunately lost three to crashes over water in Louisiana Lately. Thanks for the bus, could have easily gone another way
posted by eustatic at 2:48 PM on August 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Long sleeves do wonders for preventing jellyfish stings and providing insulation. When I heard they were in the water for 45 minutes, I was thinking they must've been really close to that point of no return...somewhere around an hour to 1:20 at that temperature is all she wrote for both of them. They could've stayed close together to maximize the body heat, but seemed like they had no thoughts that they were in danger of going into shutdown mode...

I wonder, if they'd not made it, how that footage would be considered's pretty amazing they captured so much on phone cameras.
posted by Chuffy at 3:33 PM on August 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure "miracle" applies here. Nice that good things were coincidentally present and folks made good decisions, but not really miraculous.
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:02 PM on August 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

Give it up for the competence and readiness of the Coast Guard. They know their business.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 5:20 PM on August 21, 2019 [11 favorites]

John Denver’s Crash, October 12, 1997.
posted by cenoxo at 5:47 PM on August 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

West Marine and similar nautical supply stores sell inflatable PFDs like the airline ones, but significantly more robust. Grab a few of those and wear one while flying rather than a bulky foam PFD.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:47 PM on August 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

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