Landing Scare – Piper Warrior II Pilot Arrested by Highway Patrol
On July 15, 2022, a Missouri State Highway Patrol officer arrested a man for drunk driving on westbound Interstate 70 at 3 a.m.
This concerns us because the man “piloted” a single-engine aircraft, a Piper Warrior II. The Piper Warrior was a popular successor to the Cherokee with longer tapered fenders; the Warrior II had more power and better wheel fairing aerodynamics.
These upgrades added very little to its performance on the asphalt concrete of the Interstate Highway.
The flight was scheduled from Walker County Airport in Jasper, Alabama to Grain Valley, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City.
Later, the pilot reported that there were 45 gallons of fuel on board, which under optimal circumstances would allow about five hours of flight time in a brand new plane. Usually a pilot would plan a flight with around an hour of fuel as a buffer. For normal planning, taking into account the fuel used during start-up, taxiing and landing, I would estimate that 45 gallons of fuel would provide about three hours and thirty minutes of flight time.
Now that’s a messy calculation on the back of the matchbook, which doesn’t take wind into account and assumes the rider is tilting the engine correctly and not wasting extra fuel on the climb or leaving the power setting too high raised.
In reality, flying at around 100 knots with a little tailwind, you could perhaps roughly manage a distance of 500 nautical miles on 45 gallons of fuel, if you exhausted all your buffer and left no possibility of diversion, in a new plane, if everything went perfectly.
The Piper Warrior II received its certificate of airworthiness in 2003, twenty years before the flight. The distance as the crow flies from Walker County Airport to Grain Valley Airport 3GV is 470 nautical miles.
It was 10:10 p.m. when the pilot left Walker County. It was a dark night but the wind was calm and the visibility was good. He asked air traffic control for “VFR flight following” service, which meant controllers would monitor the flight on radar and offer traffic advisories.
The flight was uneventful until about 40 miles east of Kansas City when the pilot realized he did not have enough fuel to get to his destination. He contacted ATC, who responded helpfully with headings to the nearest airport for an emergency landing. The pilot did not follow the headings but continued on his way. The controller then asks the pilot to switch to the approach frequency, where he will receive better instructions to land him safely.
He did not arrive on the ground safely.
At 2:42 a.m., four and a half hours after the pilot left the Walker County airport, a highway patrol officer was notified that a plane had crashed into Interstate 70, completely blocking land. in a westerly direction.
The officer arrived within ten minutes to see a badly damaged aircraft perpendicular to the roadway with its nose against the guardrail. Two officers from the Grain Valley Police Department and an ambulance were already at the scene.
He approached the pilot, who was being treated for his injuries in the ambulance.
The pilot explained that he was flying from Ocala, Fla., to downtown Charles B. Wheeler Airport when he had an emergency.
Ocala, Florida does not have an airport but is served by Orlando International Airport. Ocala has an airport, see comments below.
The Walker County airport in Alabama, where the pilot actually departed, is about 800 miles north of Ocala.
“I told the tower I was in Winchester with fuel,” he said.
The highway patrolman asked him to explain what that meant.
“Winchester on fuel, out of fuel. I ran out of gas.”
The Shack Tactical Wiki, a website serving the Shack Tac community of veteran gamers, explains that Winchester is a military aviation code word for an aircraft running out of ammunition.
A pilot may declare over the radio that he is “Winchester” or “Winchester on
“, letting listeners know that he won’t be able to use this weapon until he has the chance to RTB [return to base] and rearm.
The usage is compared to the term bingothat a military pilot can use to explain that he has run out of fuel and needs to return to base.
Pilots can instead decide to stay on the battlefield, knowledge they won’t be able to get back to base before the engine dies, but hope to make a difference on the battlefield before they inevitably crash. This is extremely rare in Shack Tac.
Shack Tac refers to players who participate in multiplayer military simulation games.
It is true that the term is legitimately used in military aviation and referenced in the context of US Navy SEALs. That means our unlucky pilot was either an avid military sim gamer with poor attention to detail, or a member of an elite special ops force who was momentarily confused as to whether he needed ammo. or fuel to complete his mission to return home.
It’s possible the tower controller figured out what the hell the pilot was talking about and that he was out of fuel, not ammo, but I suspect they didn’t have a clue either. Certainly not the highway patrol.
The pilot continued to speak, saying he was the sole occupant of the plane, which he added was private property and empty. Passengers and fuel, although he didn’t specify what he was talking about.
The officer believed that the pilot may have been intoxicated. He left it with the emergency services for evaluation while he examined the crash site.
An articulated truck (US: tractor-trailer or tractor-trailer) blocked the roadway. She was heading west towards Colorado when the driver noticed the plane was flying low above her. “He just kept going down and kept going down and I’m going WTF. And then the next thing I know, I’m going holy shit! And he took the highway.
The plane crashed right in front of her. She stopped her vehicle to block off the site of the traffic accident. Then she ran towards the wreckage, shouting for her husband, who was also in the truck, to call for help.
She offered the officer the footage from her truck’s dash cam and added that she had put the driver’s personal effects in the cab of her truck. She thought the police might want them, she said, because the pilot seemed a bit tipsy.
Here is the view from his dashcam:
She handed over a blue backpack and the officer asked her what the pilot looked like after exiting the plane. “Drunk,” she said.
She then described it to the local press. “His words were awkward, you could smell the alcohol on him. He hugged me and thanked me for blocking traffic and told me he was glad he didn’t hit anyone .
Back at the ambulance, a medic reported that the pilot had asked to be transported for medical attention. The doctor confirmed that the pilot smelled of alcohol and acted intoxicated. However, when questioned, the pilot denied having consumed alcohol or drugs and, according to the highway patrolman, refused any field sobriety tests.
He decided this test or no test: the man was drunk. He arrested the pilot at 2:59 a.m. for driving while intoxicated and operating an aircraft while intoxicated.
The pilot then volunteered to accompany the officer, who explained that he first needed to be transported for medical attention, as he had requested.
The pilot said no, he would just go with the highway patrol.
The officer asked him for identification and the pilot claimed he had none. How, the officer wondered, did he enter and exit airports without any form of identification? The irritated pilot said he didn’t need ID as these were private airports.
The officer then searched the pilot and found a Kansas state driver’s license and a container of marijuana.
At this point, unprompted, the pilot provided new information. “My Glock is on the plane.” A Glock is a type of semi-automatic pistol.
Arrest records resulted in a long list of charges: driving under the influence, reckless and reckless driving involving an accident, criminal possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of marijuana (less of 10 grams) and Illegal possession of drug paraphernalia.
The Piper Warrior II was towed and all freeway lanes were open again at 5:30 a.m. that morning.
After the crash, the pilot was asked to complete Form NTSB 6120.1, a Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report. Below
Pilot Certificate(s) (Check all that apply) there is a small check mark, under student.
After that, everything is marked with N/A for not applicable or None.
His student pilot certificate was issued in January 2020. There is really no obstacle to obtaining this certificate if you can pass the medical examination; however, you should only fly under the supervision of an instructor, who obviously would never let him go on a flight without enough fuel to complete it.
The gentleman, I hesitate to continue calling him a pilot, has claimed 290 flight hours, including 235 on this make and model of aircraft, which is particularly impressive for a student pilot. For the section titled “Narrative History of Flight”, he simply wrote, “Under deliberation of the board (sic), I decline to answer at this time.”
Under the recommendation (How could this accident/incident have been avoided?), the student pilot capitalizes: REFUSED TO RESPOND UNDER THE ADVICE OF THE COUNCIL.
The student pilot contests the revocation of his driver’s license.
The NTSB has closed its case because the details of the emergency landing are clear.
Law enforcement reported that the plane flew over a tractor-trailer, landed on the interstate causeway and struck a guard rail. The aircraft sustained significant damage to the left wing. The student pilot reported to law enforcement that the aircraft was low on fuel. While at the scene of the accident, the pilot was arrested for driving while intoxicated and operating an aircraft while intoxicated. The pilot refused to provide a statement of the accident.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause(s) of this accident are:
The loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.
Personnel Issues: Fuel Planning – Pilot Airplane: Fuel – Fluid level Personnel issues: Alcohol – Pilot
The FAA, on the other hand, is going to have a blast. They confirmed they were investigating separately.
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