Pilots, supposedly, have a saying: Take-off is optional. Landing is mandatory. One way or another, sooner or later, your aircraft—be it a fighter jet, a commercial airliner, a helicopter, or a rinky-dink ultra-light—is going to come to rest on terra firma at some point. Convincing it to do so when and where you want, well, that’s where the skill comes in. Still, even trained pilots don’t always stick the landing like Simone Biles. Variables such as mechanical failure, unexpected wildlife, and especially weather can make quite a bit more difficult.
On the other hand, those same climactic conditions can also make stopping a little easier, as the occupants of a Piper PA-46 propeller plane found out earlier this month, when their plane failed to stop in time on a slippery runway and face-planted into a giant snow bank while landing at Courchevel Airport in the French Alps.
Thankfully, the occupants only sustained minor injuries, according to The Daily Mail. (Kremlin-backed Russian news source RT claimed one person on board was reportedly injured more seriously, but considering the provenance, we’re taking that with a grain of salt.) And thankfully for those of us stuck inside far away from the French Alps…the whole incident was caught on video.
…from multiple angles.
It seems obvious that the pilot wasn’t trying to jam the Piper straight into the snowbank like Scarface diving into cocaine; in both videos, the sound of screeching tires can clearly be heard in the final seconds before the crash, and the propeller can be seen first stopping, then begin to spin in the opposite direction, suggesting whoever was behind the controls may have reversed the engine’s thrust in an attempt to stop the small single-engined plane.
Still, it was all for naught: The impact buried the plane in snow all the way to the A-pillar, as can be seen in the image below.
The Courchevel Altiport, as the small Alpine air terminal is formally known, is known to be tricky, having been ranked amongst the most extreme airports on the planet by The History Channel. (Okay, fine, it’s not exactly Aviation Week, but who do you really expect to do a ranking called “Most Extreme Airports”?) The airport is located at an altitude of 6,588 feet, which means the air is thin, producing less lift and drag than down at most runways; in addition, said runway is just 1,762 feet long, with a gradient of 18.6 percent. Add in icy conditions—as the video seems to suggest were present on the day of the crash—and it’s not hard to see how a plane might slip n’ slide straight off the runway…and into Internet fame.
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