How To Ruin A Perfectly Good Windshield by Laird Owens
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It started off as a flight of 3 RV-6's and a C-210 going to Santa Maria for a brunch flight. Kim and Scott Huntington in the C-210 had a high cylinder temp warning on climb out and had to turn back. The 3 RV's continued on. As we landed in Santa Maria, Dwain Harris RV-6 taxied in trailing oil on the ramp. After he pulled the cowl he found a leaking rocker cover gasket. An RV-8 pilot on the field just happened to have a spare around, so Dwain fixed the leak while the rest of us had lunch. (Don't worry, we saved some for him).
What is it they say things happening in threes?
We decided to fly out as a flight of 3 and do a formation low approach before heading home. Paul Rosales and his wife, Victoria, were lead, my passenger, Lisa and I were #2 on the right, and Dwain was #3 on the right. We formed up on the crosswind leg and turned down wind at 1000' AGL and 120 knots.
"RV flight cleared low approach".
Paul starts to roll on to base and start a decent. I'm keeping a nice tight station on Paul, and Dwain is right outside.
I hear "HAWK!!" over the intercom at the same time it comes through the windshield. I only saw a blur right before it hit.
A HUGE bang and shudder, flying Plexiglas, and lots of wind.
I look up to see a hole in the right side of the windshield, and Lisa's head is down in her hands. I can't see her face. I see the hawk impaled on the rear baggage bulkhead.
I pulled the throttle to idle and drop away from the flight. I do a quick check to see if I have full control. OK.....I've got an airplane. If I can get it slowed down I can still make the runway.
I call out "MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY"
"RV flight cleared to land any runway"
Somebody asks over the air, "Laird, you OK?"
A quick look over to check on Lisa. I hadn't noticed that her headsets had gotten taken off in the impact. I still can't see her face, as she's holding her forehead and bent down out of the wind. I do see some blood. I get her attention and all I get is a thumbs up from under her hair. Good....Let's get this thing on the ground.
"We hit a bird..came through the windshield..were OK".
Were close to FE speed, OK, flaps down...Airspeed is starting to bleed off. Good.....75 on short final for security, and I look up to see Paul over fly on the right. Comforting.
"RV on short final, is that the aircraft that hit the bird?
"That's affirmative, RV 15Lima".
"RV 15Lima, emergency trucks are rolling".
"Please send an ambulance, we have an injury on board".
Easy on the flair, a little bounce, and off at the first available taxi way.
"Tower, where should I meet the trucks?"
"There rolling to your right"
Pull the mixture and shut off the mags as they pull up.
I look over at Lisa and she finally looks up at me. There is blood running down her nose and on her hand, but she's all in one piece. I look back and see the hawk impaled in between the rear baggage bulkhead and the canopy and lots of blood. Fortunately, the birds, not ours. Let's see if the canopy will open. It pops open...Good.
I know Lisa is OK when she reaches for her leather jacket to keep the hawks blood from dripping on it.
The cautious emergency crew puts Lisa on the backboard and stabilizes her neck. Her cuts to the forehead are minor and it's just a precaution, but it looks like were going to the ER. (Lisa tells a good story about the EMT who was trying to lift the backboard while still kneeling on her hair). Somebody asked about me. Jeez, I hadn't even thought about that. A quick survey and no injuries, with the exception of a lot of adrenaline still in the system.
After Lisa was treated and released from the ER, I had a chance to look at the RV.
Besides the hole in the right side of the windscreen, there's a good sized dent in the right side of the leading edge of the stab, and one smaller one in the leading edge of the rudder. These were made from the broken Plexiglas departing the airplane.
The rear slider track is bent as is the upper fuse skin, just below the canopy skirt where the hawk ended up. The composite canopy skirt is cracked in several places were there was filler over some pop rivets, but, mercifully, the main canopy doesn't have any cracks.
And there is still that dent on the leading edge of the wing from the sparrow I hit a month earlier on approach to Camarillo.
Later, as I'm sitting in my hangar (drinking a much deserved beer) it occurred to me that I wasn't depressed or mad, just kind of happy in a strange way.
Happy to be alive, and that Lisa wasn't seriously injured. She did a great job of not panicking and had a great outlook through the whole ordeal. Dwain had an empty seat for her and let her fly most of the way home (she's an private pilot and working on her instrument ticket), and she's promised to get back in the left seat soon. Good girl.
It's close calls like this that help to sort out the bigger picture of life, I guess, as I hardly slept at all last that night, thinking about the "what ifs".....
Through all of this, I'd really like to say a big "Thanks" to Dwain, Paul, and Victoria for all the help. I'd be up a creek without you guys. RV flyers are the best! Same goes to the Santa Maria "Crash Team".
If there are any artists out there, I'd love to get a good silhouette of a hawk and a sparrow for the side of the fuselage.
PS Apparently Lisa has had a new call sign given to her...."Lady Hawk". And the RV has been named "Bird Dog" for its ability to locate our feathered friends.