This event happened in 2010. It’s been several years now, with lots of things learned by people that have written me, and some time to step back and learn more myself. Here is a Follow Up Podcast that I’ve done recently. It explains the event in much better depth than the text you’ll read below.

There are a lot of sayings in the Aviation Community to prove various points. One of them fits this story perfectly:

“Being a pilot consists of long periods of boredom speckled with moments of sheer terror”

This has never described my career. Terror is a very STRONG word. I’ve been scared and on edge at times, but ‘Terror’ is on a whole level of it’s own.

Well, I can now say that I have experienced Terror as a pilot. And I’m not proud of it.

Several weeks ago I was flying in the Pacific North West near Seattle, with all of it’s Aviation History and culture. I love being in places like this where the makeup of the community pretty much revolves around aviation.

While I was up there I wanted to see several places that I had come to enjoy in Flight Simulator, one being an airfield scenery accurately depicted by ORBX. This place is called ‘Concrete‘.

The world of Flight Simulator is inviting and holds a level of invulnerability that real pilots don’t get to have the luxury of dealing with. In the real world, all bets are off.

Of course, I don’t have unrealistic expectations of the vast abyss that makes up the differences between real world and the flight simulator world.

So, the romantic world of Flight Simulator was turned on it’s head when I experienced this real world takeoff out of Concrete. Now, don’t accuse me of thinking the real world is like flight simulator because I’ll be the first to say it’s totally different. And I point out WHY it was different below.

You have probably already watched the horrifying video above.

The video does not do a justice for what it was like to experience this myself. And really, I’m not trying to build this up into something bigger than it actually was. This was literally the most horrifying moment of my life. That’s what you call Terror.

Analyzing the Situation

An interesting chain of events preceded this takeoff, looking back now.

  • I elected not to go direct to these small airstrips. Instead, we flew up north a bit and use about an hours worth of fuel. This lightened the load.
  • The strip we went to before this was also a short field, actually the exact same field length, and I was able to practice the short field maneuvers before we even got to this airport.
  • At the beginning of the video you hear me say, “I’m going to use every possible inch of runway”. Man, you can’t script it any better than that. This is of course something I learned early in my aviation career. A pilot cannot get back fuel left out of the takes, runway left behind him, or altitude left above him. Take what you can get.

Several major things of note happened once full power was applied:

  • I used all available runway before I took off, but lifted off about halfway down the runway.
  • Just as I rotate, you can see I turn the aircraft just a few degrees to aim for the only opening in the trees. This was not something intentional I did at all, and something I only saw once reviewing the video. These are instincts a pilot can build and something I did unconsciously.
  • There was an air pocket at that end of the runway (we knew, because we had flown through it on the arrival) and the aircraft didn’t climb well through that air pocket.
  • All that is ‘human‘ in me told me to ‘pull up!‘ but all of my training said ‘airspeed, airspeed, airspeed‘. This meant a lower nose attitude than was comfortable, but the reality is it was better than stalling and not having a chance to get out at all. This is VERY difficult to stick with.
  • The trees to the left and right, although they look close, aren’t as close as the trees underneath (if you didn’t see the trees underneath, re-watch the video)

Personal Note

As more of a personal note rather than an analytical note like above, this was the scariest thing I’ve ever felt. I truly didn’t know if I was going to make it. The only thing I could think of was airspeed, and my wife back home. Those were the only two things that crossed my mind for what seemed like a hundred times in those few intense seconds.

Once past the trees, I could breathe and start to burn off all that adrenaline, although my hands and body were still shaking from the intense infusion of adrenaline long into the night.

What I Learned

This was a very close call, to say the least. Every performance parameter was in place, the aircraft should have operated as ‘published’ in the documentation, but it didn’t. Because of many of the circumstances above (both good and bad) this ended with a very close call and a lesson learned.

So, what was the biggest lesson for me?

Know your personal minimums vs. the aircrafts ‘real’ minimums.

Although the handbook says you can do it, and everything ‘checks out’, know what you are and are not comfortable with. Also, know what your aircraft really CAN and CANNOT do.

Please Comment

Other than that, I’d like to open up the comments and hear from you. I realize I run the risk of being railroaded for even showing this, and many might call me stupid (although I did everything by the book) but this is something I want the world to be able to learn from.

So, let’s hear those comments.

Throttle On

This article was posted in Aviation, Blog, Challenges, Flight Safety, Real World

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  • Trevor

    Chris, thanks for showing this. Its not easy to open up to close calls but from what I can figure, the aviation industry is geared towards learning from mistakes and close calls.
    “In the real world, all bets are off.” This is exactly what makes AviatorPro so necessary. Right now I dont feel absolutely comfortable in all phases of flight in IFR conditions because I can’t promise myself i will be in front of the aircraft at all times. I can’t guarantee I will make it through the flight safely.
    One question I have. I notice the plane giving stall horn sounds just on liftoff. Does the plane actually accelerate faster in that near stall condition but free from the ground friction or getting another 5+ knots while still on the runway?

    • You know, that’s a really good question. I’ve gone over this scenario over and over again, and the only thing I can think of is that I actually made it. For me to then question myself asking if I could have done things differently, and it would have been different, I just don’t know.

      So, the aviator in me says I won’t do it again under those circumstances, i.e., aircraft, weather, weight, etc.

  • Leo

    Hi Chris,

    I’m really speechless now and i felt like i was there…that was brave of you to do.
    Can i ask you a favor please, can you do the same flight ( or at least the Take Off) on the flight sim… and talk about it a little bit.what need to be done and how to make it happen with out any problems.
    very interesting situation actually and i would like to know about it if possible.

    • Not a bad idea. I’ll have to think about it. To be honest, I don’t even want to go to the freakin’ airfield in FSX!

  • Carlos Zegarra

    Man that was close.
    The most interesting part is when the “human” part of you said “pull up”, “pull up” but the “pilot mind” in you kept it cool and asked for “airspeed”, and looked also for that opening between the trees.
    Chris that was very scary. Thanks God everything turn out fine and you are still with us.

    Carlos Zegarra

    • It was an impressive display of what training and experience can do for a pilot. But, I’m not proud of it nor do I think that I got out by mere skill.

      Something like this puts a pilots vulnerability into check REALLY fast.

  • Mark Tuma

    Chris I could feel the moment of fear just watching it from here! What made it such a close thing? Is it just that your aircraft no longer performs as spec?

    Glad you made it man…

    • When we landed (the opposite direction) there was a thermal that we hit. I believe on the ensuing takeoff and climb, we hit that ‘soft spot’ in the air and it really did a number on the climb performance.

  • Jean-Charles Lemieux

    Hi Chris,
    When I saw that flight I relived a similar situation with my brother in law several years ago. We departed Lac Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, with a Cessna 150, to fly to some private runways in the vicinity. After landing in St-Romain, on one of his friend’s private strip, we went for coffe. Once we return to the aircraft and taxied to the end of the gravel runway, which was not very wide, I told my brother in law that we should push the aircraft right to the very end of the runway as there was about 30 to 40 feet behind us. He told me that he had taken off several time from that field and there was really no problems. I had fown quite often and that made me uneasy, but I trusted his knowledge and experience with the aircraft. As you said lets do it. Well he said in french “On y va”, and we were on our way. As we got to the middle of the runway I could sence that he was getting concerned, he said it not lifting as usual, and I could see him pulling a bit more, in short stroke, on the yoke, luckily he eased the yoke a little bit forward and we just managed to clear the trees but a few feet. Once we both regained our breath and composure, he told me that he should have listened to me when we were at the end of the runway prior to taking off.
    The big mistake we did was that we forgot the he normally flew alone. Well at the time I weighted 185 pounds, and that is just enough to put you in the trees.
    Although this reminded me of a bad experience, I am happy that you had a powerful aircraft and that you made it OK. Experience, and the gut feeling that made you turn slightly, make you do wonderful things. Best of luck, and Throttle On.

    • Wow… So you know the feeling. There is nothing like it, is there?

      • mike rowe

        I wouldn’t go so far as to say the POH lied or misled you. Remember those values are at specific values, etc. and all things must be taken into consideration as so many others have posted already. Looks like you stayed within ground effect which helped build airspeed. Glad you made it

        Disclaimer.: I’m not a pilot but have been studying a lot before I begin my training in the next month or so.

        • We should’ve been fancy and free according to the numbers. We should have been at least 700 FPM after takeoff. The distance was pretty standard and worked out well, but the aircraft didn’t want to fly in that air.

          Glad you’re studying a lot! Take any lesson you learn and be smart about it. But also realize, like you said, the numbers are misleading. Half the crap they want to teach you doesn’t matter as a pilot.

          My textbook isn’t what got me over those trees. It was experience and a cool head. I’m not bragging by any stretch of the imagination, just giving you a warning that your FAA written tests isn’t what will save your tail.

  • Bruce

    Wow my heart is still raceing.

    A few questions though. Given that Concrete rw length is 2609ft
    What was the recommended t/o distance for your a/c on the day? I suspect that you were very close on limitations?

    Reminds me of the story of “Old Pilots” & “Bold Pilots”

    hey Chris take it steady, lesson learnt the hard way sometimes hurt!

    • You can see the aircraft lifted off with plenty of runway left.

      The climb is what really did me in. That ‘soft spot’ in the air just didn’t want to allow me to climb. It was quite odd.

      As I said, everything checked out performance wise but, these invariables can’t be ‘calculated’.

      This is what makes aviators great. Although the handbooks lied, I was still able to get out of it. Just goes to show you can’t plan yourself out of a sticky situation.

    • signmanbob

      Well Chris, I’m just glad I wasn’t in the back seat. I would have added a little over 200lbs and a hike back to the lodge.
      Please don’t take any more chances. We need our “AviatorPro”! If the runway is shorter than 5000 ft.,…divert.

      • Thing is I wasn’t even taking a chance, man! This was the weirdest situation I’ve ever faced as a pilot.

        Still trying to sort it out.

  • Tony Baldo

    Hey Chris,

    I viewed the clip earlier today, but was initially speechless and just couldn’t respond to it. I guess the best and most important thing I can say now is Thank God you instinctively relied on your training (and a subconscious boost from the thought of your wife) to make a split millisecond decision to steer to the tree opening while keeping the nose down thereby gaining speed and ultimately altitude. It may or may not be an understatement for me to say “lesson learned” on your part, but it’s somewhat of a bittersweet visual example that all of us trainees here in Aviator Pro can learn from, regardless of how hard it might be to watch.

    Take care and be well 🙂

    • You know, the ‘decision’ to turn for the trees wasn’t a decision at all. It was something I just did instinctively and didn’t even know I had done it until I reviewed the video.

      It was quite the mental battle, although it was very short, to just keep that airspeed.

      Stall= Hit trees for sure.
      Airspeed with chance of tree= chance of getting out alive.

  • jnes1021

    Chris I have flown into Concrete so many times in PNW FSX that I knew exactly where you were before reading your text … man PNW and Concrete on FSX is amazing for us computer pilots and there you were at the real thing … … Could it be that you lifted off too early before hitting maybe 80 knots vs… your usual 62 – 65 knots? I am amazed that they have trees at the end of so many runways …

    good work …

    • I don’t think it was that I lifted off too early. I lifted off just after Vr.

  • Tomaz

    Man, that was scary! I’m kinda speechless after seeing this.

  • Arjun

    Very well done Chris.

    A big hats off to you for not pulling up too early.

    • Eric

      wow..speechless for a moment here.. I guess we all have these moments in our live, but you have the guts [and a video] to show it. I made me rethink my FS-Flying-style and it confirmed my pleasure being into Aviator Pro. We learn a lot here Chris! Its not getting into a plane, press the F4-key and take off anymore from me, I actually look at runway lengths, weights and performance charts as of lately. I intend to get my private liscence one day and I honestly think I will fail that because of bad habits of flying without thinking in FS for over 20 years. Aviator Pro might actually make me a better pilot in real life later on..

      Glad you survived that moment! Hope it will not cause you to never fly short strips again as moving into Alaska will bring you plenty of those 🙂 Is the Bonanza moving too or is it going to be a Bush Plane there?

      Anyway, thanks for sharing this!

      • The Bonanza isn’t going with me. It’d be useless in Alaska 😉

        You know, you’ll be already when you go to the real world and fly. Don’t worry too much about what you learned in FS to mess up your real flying. In fact, in most cases it only helps.

  • Eric

    oh, I forgot to ask: Would extra flaps at last moment give you the extra lift for a short moment? I wondered about if it makes sense should the trees actually be unavoidable. In FS it seems to work, but I’m not sure if thats correct.

    • I really doubt that’s correct, and I wouldn’t want to add flaps last second. Maybe that’s an actual advanced maneuver some bush pilots use but I’ve never heard of it before.

      When I fly, I don’t rely on what I think I know from FS. It’s a real world out there with tons of variables FS will probably never get right.

      • Flamin_Squirrel

        DO NOT use flaps to try and clear obstacles. Flaps reduce your lift/drag ratio. You’ll get extra lift, but you’ll get far more extra drag – you’d have hit the trees if you’d used flaps.

        What flaps do do is allow you to get off the ground sooner, i.e. from short strips (but without obstacles), but getting off the ground wasn’t your issue in this case.

        Good video!

    • Tom Green

      I am amazed by people’s ability to assume that he could have ‘just pulled back on the controls to clear the trees’ even though we can’t see the ASI in the video. If you’re ready to assume that, excuse me for being rude but I think you’re an idiot.

      I think if he’d had the airspeed to do that, he would have just done it. Any pilot would do that.

      I’m not saying Chris didn’t mess up. Something went wrong, either the increase in gross weight from his conversion isn’t reflected in the POH, or he rotated early and got on the backside of the power curve, or a downdraft, or something. I don’t know to what extent this could have been predicted given the info available to Chris at the time and I don’t know whether he flew the right profile (but I do know he knew he needed his mojo, he knew it was going to be a bit close).

      And I do applaud him for posting the video and taking the flak.

      • Hey Tom,
        I think I’ll let the ‘idiot’ thing slide on this one since someone with a low airspeed ‘pulling back’ would definitely be an idiot. Better yet, a dead idiot.

        I agree with you that there are things I could have done better. But that knowledge has only come as a result of getting a lot of great feedback from real pilots who fly the Bonanza and have for years.

        There’s a much better way of doing short field takeoffs, but at the time I didn’t know how to do these. I was taught the FAA version of short field, which in my opinion is dangerous to assume it works for all models.

  • raju

    WOW that was really impressive and scary!!

    • Thanks. I can’t say I’m really impressed and want to give myself a pat on the back, but I’m glad we got out of it.

    • signmanbob

      “So Bob, you don’t see any mistakes that Chris made?”

      Yeah…putting this video up for public display and exposing himself to being accused of “poor piloting” by a lot of Monday night quarterbacks who may not be willing to put their mistakes, which you readily admit are made by every pilot, on display for public dissection.
      I just think a little sensitivity is needed here.

      “Those of us who fly planes have all made some mistakes and if we live long enough will make more, hopefully none that kill or injure us or our passengers.”

      This is the exact reason why people watching this film should be very sensitive to how they address and respond to this situation which they can easily find themselves in…or maybe even worse.
      It is very easy to assume “pilot error” when all of the facts are not known.
      I believe Chris flew out of this situation very calmly, professionally and skillfully. I wouldn’t hesitate, and would be honored to be his passenger anytime.

      • “I wouldn’t hesitate, and would be honored to be his passenger anytime.”

        Thanks Bob

        Couldn’t agree with your comment any more.

  • Bruce

    I’ve just watched that t/o again & I still expect it to end up differently with the FAA watching the tape post accident.

    I truely admire your courage in allowing us to share this moment, you could easily have just hidden it from us. But looking back over all your videos you have never been shy of showing us the good & the bad. Not that this was necessarliy a mistake (you were within limits) You just got dealt a bit of Murphy’s Law ( if it can go wrong it will go wrong ) Your skill in maintaining your flying speed meant you are here to relay the tale–be thankful for that. Besides who would replace you on AvPro?

    I once flew with a captain who looked at the limits & then added a bit for his wife & then a bit more for each of his kids, he lived to be a very old pilot!

    God speed and stay safe.

    • “I once flew with a captain who looked at the limits & then added a bit for his wife & then a bit more for each of his kids, he lived to be a very old pilot!”

      I like that, very, very cool.

      As you said, I was within limits and everything, but Murphy had different ideas that day.

    • Leigh

      So Bob, you don’t see any mistakes that Chris made? Dp take a look at the attitude of the plane and then tell me that you think this is one that would lead to climbing? His speed must have been sufficient since it took them only 30 seconds to reach the end of the runway, an average of 60 mph from a standing start, making me guess they were likely at least 90 mph at the end or about 30 mph more than stall speed. All he had to do was pull back on the controls a bit to easily clear the trees with lots of room to spare, unless he had encountered a stong tailwind.

      Those of us who fly planes have all made some mistakes and if we live long enough will make more, hopefully none that kill or injure us or our passengers. In suggesting that the winds were not as he figured I was giving Chris the benefit of the doubt since that could account for the lack of abliity to climb in a powerful plane such as he was flying. The only other things would be engine problems or poor piloting since the DA was not a factor nor was the loading.

      • Patrick

        With all due respect, could you be any more patronizing ? On top of calling Chris a liar?

      • It’s not exactly as easy as you explain. I was doing Vx at the time and giving the aircraft everything it had.

        In your explanation, you would have ‘pulled back’ and plowed into the trees.

        Pulling back wasn’t an option, sorry.

  • Dave Taylor

    Wowee, thanks for sharing Chris but we all love you mate. Sometimes when a young man take unnessacery risks in life. This has got be one of those times for you. We are a bit like Turkey Cocks believing we are beyond harm but the truth is, we aren’t.

    Watching this video in HD was like being there and it frightened me as I reckon it did you too? We have to consider at these times who we might leave behind if something goes wrong and what would be a deep loss for them and learn.
    I am sure that if this was carried out by your wife instead of you (assuming she had the same skills of course) you would be mad at her?

    If I was you, I would not let her see what you get up to Chris otherwise you could find yourself grounded mate hahaha.

    Good luck and keep safe Chris, we in the FS world want you to be around for a long time, you are OUR asset and I want you to get to my age (68) so you can enjoy what you do forever.

    • Hey Dave,
      Fortunately this was not a ‘risk’ I took as everything was supposed to be just fine. I explained all of that to my wife when I showed her the video and let her know all the details. It was a weird situation that took some getting out of, but thankfully I had prepared all day so the risk (normal takeoff risk in my mind) was very low.

  • Richard

    Chris that was amazing and I’m kind of speechless. Glad you’re still here! It’s a brilliant demonstration of doing the right thing rather than what seems to be right. Also illustrates the old adage: It’s better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air, rather than in the air wishing you were on the ground. Thanks so much for sharing this.

    • Very true. Everything should have been fine, but it wasn’t, and we had to deal with what we had. The aircraft just didn’t want to climb for one reason or another. It’s really easy to speculate what caused that, but the moral of the story is that we had plenty of power curve on our side to get out of it, as we weren’t fully (or even close) loaded.

  • Ted Wagner

    Well, it’s nice to see Concrete for real. But, wow Chris.

    The pocket of air was also quite noticible in your film too. I noticed before you turned around there, the wind was blowing pretty well.

    Good to know your training held you through!

    • Thanks Ted. It was a great learning experience.

  • Robert Barber

    Nice demonstration of your mind operating on autopilot. WIthout your experience you may have had to actually take time to think about what to do. The outcome may well have been very different.

    Thanks for the lesson, especially to those of us who do not have (nor wish to have) a PPL. Glad you made it. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with this gift you’ve been given.

    • The thing about experience in this that gets to me isn’t the takeoff itself, but what happened prior with burning off extra fuel and taking my time to get my ‘Mojo’ back on the ground and so on.

  • Ralston

    Holy scheisse man… i got chills thinking about a real person having to live through that as I was watching the video….

    Glad to know your ligaments are all still there.

  • signmanbob

    That’s unbelievable. When I was watching the airplane lift off the runway, I was thinking that it seemed to be happening a little slow.
    I’m sure am glad you made it, of course, and I know you are too, but what is the story here? Does everyone that takes off of this runway have a near-death experience? What could you have done differently? Is this Bonanza just not the aircraft to use at this kind of runway because it doesn’t have good enough STOL capabilities?
    I mean this is not a clearing at a picnic area that you left from. It’s a paved runway, supposedly made for aircraft! What if you lived in that area and had to use that runway several times a month?
    Do you:
    A. Buy a different airplane?
    B. Get used to the near death experience?
    C. Say goodby to your wife with a little more sincerity?
    D. Don’t take any passengers?

    Thank you for sharing this video with us and please,when it comes to questionable airstrips, just stick with FSX. I’m really glad you’re ok.


    • Hey Bob,
      The Bonanza isn’t really meant for this type of operation. This would probably be a piece of cake in a Cessna of any sort (high wing, I mean).

      There is a STOL kit you can get for the Bonanza that creates better airflow over the wing and really would have helped out in this situation, but it also reduced cruise efficiency. Because this type of airfield is a rarity for us, we don’t have that kit.

      But, that’s about it. The Bonanza should have been good at this airfield. All signs were a go, and performance was fine, but there were just some weird conditions.

  • Charlie Chew

    Great video, Chris. Glad you pulled through. FS Break hosts are becoming an endangered species, and we need to preserve the ones we’ve got.

  • Chris


    Things to remember to pack on your next trip…

    1. Big A__ Chain saw. Show those trees whose boss.
    2. Depends, Adult, extra absorbent. 2 for each person.

    Man you scared the Carp out of me just watching this.

    Brought to mind a similar situation when I was a 15yr old and we flew out of a private gravel field in Canada. Later found out the pilot had just received his wings about 2 1/2 weeks prior. Had a retroactive breakdown from that one.

    I remember reading an article about poor weather flying once that said to hold the plane down a few seconds longer than usual to get a few feet of “jump” when you finally let the bird loose. Do you think this might have helped you clear the trees a little higher in this instance?

    Great video though.
    Don’t make any more like this please.

    I’m gray enough now as it is.


    • Do you mean hold the plane down on the runway or accelerate in ground effect longer?

      • Chris

        Hold the plane down on the runway and when you let her go you get a big pop or initial jump of hieghts.

        • I made it out alive with my technique. Are you willing to bet your life on your technique?

  • I applaud you for posting it, and glad you survived. The slight left turn was the right course of action. In fact, I’m surprised that it wasn’t part of the plan. Short field ops with obstructions require some extensive planning. It’s not a simple matter of getting the aircraft off the ground before the end of the runway (unlike, say, a short field with no obstructions). The fact that the slight left turn gave you a significantly shorter obstacle to clear should’ve made it a more obvious and conscious choice.

    1) seriously consider implementing a sterile cockpit environment at and below 1000ft AGL. I recently made this transition after flying with some very chatty co-pilots and passengers. You guys don’t appear to be 100% focused on the task at hand (although, I’ll give it to you, that was some funny dialogue). Although it wasn’t the cause of the drama in this case, it wouldn’t have hurt.

    2) Were you climbing at Vx to clear the obstruction? If not, why not? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big Vx fan…but for THIS situation, it seemed like it was the perfect time to use it. You needed maximum height in minimum distance. Also, the stall warning horn generally doesn’t mean the plane is about to stall (I know that sounds odd). Your departure stall training hopefully taught you that you still have some alpha in reserve.

    3) Be VERY weary of relying on the published book numbers. Market forces demand that manufacturers have little choice but to make those look as good and shiny as possible. This means, brand new engines, brand new, perfectly balanced prop, perfectly inflated and maintained tires, spotless airframe with perfect rigging, professional test pilot…the list just goes on and on and on. In fact, I pretty much stopped using them altogether. The ONLY time a book number is useful is when you have LESS runway than the book says you’ll need…then you’re HOSED. Other than that, I wouldn’t count on it for anything. Instead, I know how much my plane generally needs to get off the runway under a variety of conditions…that’s useful, real world information.

    4) Spend some real time looking at the wind and the surrounding area in the future. Given the wind direction, the trees and surrounding topography, and downdraft should’ve been expected. If it would’ve been ‘real close’ in perfect conditions…then the addition of the potential downdraft should’ve raised a red flag.

    I say none of this in judgment…these were all very easy mistakes to make. I may have done exactly the same thing, in fact. Now that you’ve posted this…I won’t. So, thank you for sharing.

    • Keith,
      In my mind, no mistakes were made. So, let me answer you points 1-by-1. I understand you’re just trying to be helpful, and I really appreciate that.

      1) In my own flying, that is possible. Unfortunately I fly around most of the time with executives that are usually ‘the boss’. I’m thankful I just get the weight and balance I want and I let things like the sterile cockpit slide. With that said, even they know the rules but they still speak up a lot.

      On this particular flight, I was flying with buddies and they are both pilots. It’s a situation where I want those guys there to talk if they see something and want to point it out. This is totally fine with me and I rule I wouldn’t plan on changing.

      Of course, it depends on the situation as well. I’ve had plenty of times where instead of saying ‘may I have a sterile cockpit please’ I’ve told everyone to ‘shutup so I can focus on the landing’.

      Regardless of the non-sterile cockpit, I was 100% focused on what I was doing.

      2) I was climbing at Vx. You heard someone else mentioned the stall horn chirping. That is because I was at Vx, and doing absolutely everything I could.

      3) I’m with you on this one. The numbers are a joke. According to the numbers we should have been doing 1200 FPM out of the airport, even where we lifted off halfway down the runway.

      4) That’s a good piece of advice, although, I must say that I fly in mountainous terrain all the time so it is nothing new to me. I disagree that the downdraft should have been expected. If you can explain why it should have been expected that might be quite helpful to me in the future.

      The truth of the matter is that sometimes conditions are out of my control. In fact, they always are. This was one of those situations that I simply had to get out of.

      Looking back, I would have planned for the area more. But even then, all bets are off.

      • Chris,

        Thanks for the well-structured and thoughtful reply. It’s refreshing to come across pilots who are open to suggestions.

        1) ‘sterile cockpit’, to me at least, doesn’t have to mean complete silence…it just means no discussion that doesn’t have a specific purpose for the flight be it safety related, or calling out checklist items. If you felt you were 100% focused (despite the chatter prior to takeoff), then that’s really what’s important, and you’re doing fine.

        2) *gulp* if you were already at Vx…then….good lord…I’m so glad it worked out the way it did because you had nothing left to give!

        3) no wonder it came as such a rude shock, then. You were definitely ripped off, in terms of book performance.

        4) two causes of potential downdraft…a) you’re flying towards a lee side of those nearby hills at your 11 o’clock, and the wind is coming from 11 o’clock if memory serves, b) you’re flying out of a clearing towards a set of relatively tall trees. You’re on the lee side of the trees, relatively to the wind….so a downdraft might be expected there, too. I fly out of Lincoln Park, NJ…we don’t have many hills here, but we do have one right next to our strip. When the winds blow over that ridge (the strip is on the back side of the hill, in terms of the prevailing NW wind), downdrafts are absolutely routine. Similarly, there is almost always a downdraft when clearing the tree line during landing in similar winds.


  • David

    As a fellow pilot I will say nice job in a sticky situation and for sharing this. Perhaps some constructive comments…

    I would be concerned about what factors decreased the performance. For example, I think I am hearing your stall horn chirping starting at 1:18 through 1:30. This simply shouldn’t be unless something is amiss or your planning was off. I hear at least 2 pax. Have you rechecked your weight and balance? How sure are you concerning fuel on board? I assume your POH has the distance to clear a 50ft OBS vs density altitude at various weights. Compare that to the actual performance and if drastically different, have your A&E check things like fuel flow, etc. If your planning was off, make if better in the future.

    Then I would mention sterile cockpit. In landing and take-offs I think you need to maintain a rule of no chatter. You don’t need distractions and since airlines maintain this rule, it’s good enough for me too.

    Anyway, it’s already been said. Sometimes all planning is to no avail and a pilot has to do “pilot stuff” and that you did. A couple of times ice has been my heart stopper, though it wasn’t in the forecast.

    Keep the greasy side down and happy flying.


    • Hey David,
      All performance checked out.

      The stall horn can easily go off if you are getting bumps of thermals while at 85 knots Vx. Perfectly normal. It’s not a very comforting feeling, actually, which is why I don’t regularly climb out at Vx and elect to go Vy first. So, you weren’t hearing an indication it was near stall.

      The weight and balance was perfectly fine and we had about half of our useful load left, which is a LOT of power curve, especially for an aircraft with a Turbo.

      Also, nothing is wrong with the aircraft. We did a very thorough inspection about 24 hours later and found nothing out of the ordinary. The airframe has less than 500 hours on it and the aircraft is maintained impeccably.

      Sterile Cockpit is a good rule. The guys on this flight would have certainly honored that, but what I’ve found is usually passengers don’t ‘get it’ when you say everything needs to be quiet. At least the people I usually fly with.

  • Tom Green

    Chris – a question for you – what was the speed and direction of the wind?

    • Tom, the wind was variable from left quartering.

      • Tom Green

        Left quartering headwind or tailwind?

      • Curious Pilot ;-)

        So I’m a commercial inst. rated pilot, I’ve had one situation “like” this, however not nearly as close!! Thank god 😉 I’m looking for insight, advice, experience about what how the airflow characteristics are affecting the airplanes performance as it leaves ground effect and enters “the forest”. Someone commented that the wind above the trees is pushin down on the plane and hampering the climb?? I’ve never flown out of an area like the one on the video, I’m hoping to learn something from your lesson if you don’t mind 😉 Anyone care to share I would appreciate it greatly!!


        • Leigh

          I’ll pass along a few observations based on my own experiences as well as things that were shown to me by some very very experienced bush pilots.

          -the windsocks are all mounted well below the level of the tree tops and therefore won’t show accurately what the wind is doing above the trees, somewhat demonstrated by the swirling action of them in the video. Chris was facing a bit of a challenge since the winds he was taking off in were going to vary a lot depending on where and how high he was and there was a good chance he encountered sinking air as he entered the trees since the winds would spill over the tops and down just where he was flying. This is why it was so important for him to get off and up as steeply as possible once he left the runway to get above the tree top level before reaching them. It is quite possible that he wasn’t actually in a tailwind at this point but the plane sure seemed to act as if it were.

          – when rotating in a strong crosswind the natural action of the plane will be to weathercock to keep it’s nose pointing into the wind yet still procede aloing the centerline and I would have expected to see this in the video but noted that instead we see the pilot fighting this action by essentially sideslipping to the left to keep the plane on the centerline even to the extent of moving slightly left of it. It would seem that he instinctively used the rudder and ailerons to crosscontrol it and thus greatly reduced the ability of the plane to climb rather than allowing the plane to swing its nose into the wind. The techniqe I have been shown in taking off in a severe crosswind is to not pull on flaps till just as I rotate thus getting a very positive jump off the runway and guarantee the plane will keep flying since it will be crabbed according to its direction over the ground. I happen to fly a Piper Arrow which has manual flaps making this action a bit easier than planes with electric ones. The important thing is to get the greatest angle of climb as soon as possible after lifting off and be higher than the trees before reaching them which I guess is kind of obvious, so a bit of practice to get used to the speed, attitude and configuration of planes you fly to accomplish this might be a good idea.

          -I know of more cases of crashes on landing than taking off at such runways surrounded by tall trees since it is common for planes to stall in once below the strong winds above them as they descend into the calm air below the tops. I have heard the claim that the air is sinking and in some cases it seems to likely be true when the runway is not completely surrounded by trees like the one in the video. No question, Chris was landing and taking off in a more challenging situation than he perhaps was used to or expected. I guess the observation that he pretty much destroyed a tire while doing severe braking after his landing confirms this since a normal landing on a 2600 ft strip should hardly require any braking at all. Most of us fly out of airports with none of these issues so seldom get much practice at this so hours of flying or ratings have little to do with our ability to handle this when we encounter it.

          • Leigh,
            Some good points here.

            The only correction I would make is to say that I wasn’t cross controlled. I only cross control when doing cross wind landings (in the final moments) and forward slips to land.

            I never cross control to keep centerline under circumstances like this.

            I think you’re getting tricked by the wide angle camera here.

  • Joe

    So, why does it look like you never climb on the video? Even after clearing the trees and passing the river, it looks like you’re still just above the trees and gaining airspeed. Was the climb performance really that bad for that long? Doesn’t look like your gaining any altitude all the way to the end of the video.

    • Once the camera view dips away from the trees, it’s hard to tell how good the climb rate is. It was much better after clearing the trees.

      But, as per the post information in text, there was so other weird stuff going on.

  • Earl

    Chris: I just saw this video and am wondering if you could provide more details.

    Some questions: 1) what aircraft type, is it turbocharged and was the engine generating full power? 2) where were you vis-a-vis gross weight? 3) what was the OAT and density altitude? 4) what was the wind direction and speed? 5) you mentioned experiencing an air pocket at the departure end when landing. Did you land downwind or did the wind direction change after landing? 6) did you use flaps?

    I’m glad everything turned out OK but I guess the short answer is in hindsight this departure under the circumstances was not a good idea. I am trying to better understand what about the departure that departed from what the book said you should see.

    • 1) G36 Bonanza (Same as the A36 but with the G1000). Engine is turbocharged and on takeoff roll it was producing 29 inches of mP and 2700 RPM.
      2) We had half our useful load on board, which puts us around 2300 pounds.
      3) Density altitude was around 1000ft.
      4) Wind direction was a left quartering headwind, I don’t know the speed. I’m guessing 5-10 knots. The airfield didn’t have automated weather.
      5) We landed downwind, so it was on the departure end when taking off.

      The departure was fine. We shouldn’t have had the crappy performance we did, and really the only way I can explain it is this ‘pocket of air’. The aircraft just didn’t want to climb once we were up. You can’t plan for that.

      • Leigh

        Looked up the Beech reference page to see what the factory rated useful load is for the G36 and was surprised to find it is only about 1100 lbs, same as a Piper Arrow with 180 hp, so if you still had 50 gallons of fuel and depending on how big you and your fellow pilots are you were fairly heavy. Anyhow, fly safe.

  • Robin White

    Yes. I owned N2111Q- a straight 36- for nine years. Flew it through two engines; a 520 and then a 550. It had tip tanks, so I became very conscious of its performance limitations when heavy. I’m relieved to hear that you used T/O flaps (this was likely the Cameron Park pilot’s fatal error). By “cycling” I mean raising the gear. In a Bonanza, when you do this the inner gear doors open first, and until everything gets tucked away, the total drag on the a/c, and the performance penalty that comes with it, increases. It is marginally harder to accelerate with gear in transit. Personally, in a max performance departure, I would have left the gear alone until I was well clear of the treeline (though who knows? Extended, they might have hit those trees. You looked very, very close).
    The BPPP program is very worthwhile. I cannot say enough good about flying with instructors who know the airplane inside out. They have had thousands and thousands of individual operations and by simple odds a very, very few of them have not come out well (note that I am not a current ABS member, so no dog in this fight). Maybe Flight Safety is just as good. I don’t know.
    But a turbo G36 (is it TN? If so, which system? The older ones had a real issue with starving the engine for air and imposing takeoff penalties you might not expect)) should have handled this situation better. There’s some reason why it did not.
    Glad you were able to post the video.
    Robin White

    • First of all, it sounds like you have a lot of experience with the aircraft. I won’t question that.

      The gear cycle on the newer G36 is a total of 3 seconds. That is very minimal to get rid of all of that drag that the landing gear produces, which, in my mind is much worse that the gear doors for a few seconds.

      I’m not so sure the Cameron Airpark guy didn’t use flaps, but I am almost positive he would’ve done better for himself had he raised the landing gear.

      This G36 is TN with a Tornado Alley Turbo. It’s a system that was put on the aircraft in 2008, so it’s pretty much new.

      I agree that it should have handled this situation much better, especially with my preparation earlier in the day. We were light weight, I burned off fuel earlier and made sure I did the short field takeoff procedure on the nose.

      Thanks for the very intriguing thoughts. It’s always nice having an in depth conversation with a Bonanza guy. It’s pretty rare, though.

  • Carlton Milligan

    Thank the Lord that you were able to get out of that one unscathed. Your knowledge and expertise was surely evident in this one. Thanks again for everything and for sharing your experiences!

  • Rob

    Chris, from watching the video, the wind appears to be blowing harder than the 5-10 you state, and the grass and trees appear to be bending in the direction you took off. A lightly loaded 300 horsepower Bonanza would climb like a bat out of hell normally, so there has to be something you’re not telling us. Don’t get me wrong, you did a great job to get out of a bad situation, and I’m glad you survived, but what put you in that position is the question. A density altitude of 1000 feet at a field that’s 250 MSL is irrelevant when considering an aircraft certified to 18,500. My 150, with 2 people and fuel, would easily be at 500 feet by the end of the runway given the weather you stated, so the fact that you couldn’t climb enough to clear 85′ trees 800 feet from the end of the runway raises many questions. If it was a 20 year old Bonanza with an engine close to overhaul, might be believable, but a 2 year old Bonanza, not so much. You did say in the video that you would do that again, so you either knew it then, or have figured it out since, what “that” is. So, maybe, you can give us a few more details, I’d love to use the video to show my students what not to do.

    • Rob,
      Seriously. If you read through the comments and what I said in the post itself, that is the full truth of it.

      You setup the scenario perfectly in your head, just as I did. The wind really wasn’t THAT bad. Really, it didn’t take much. You would have seen a much larger crab angle into the wind if it was strong than 10 knots.

      It’s just a crazy, crazy situation and everything was setup fine, and everything says it should have been a breeze.

      That’s the full truth of it. Don’t know what else to tell you.

    • Earl

      Rob: I agree with you. An aircraft flying is pure physics so there is something going on here that apparently Chris hasn’t figured out. Either the engine was not putting out enough horsepower, the wind shifted to a strong downwind, there was a strong downdraft, the plane was overloaded or something. Chris seems to think it was some sort of downdraft at the departure end but from the video it is apparent that his problems started the moment he got out of ground effect as evidenced by the stall horn and him having to lower the nose to keep his airspeed up. Something happened in this near accident because all the facts as presented lead to the logical conclusion that he should have been able to climb at 700fpm minimum which would have been plenty high by the time he got to the end of the runway.

      • Earl,
        Engine power was full on takeoff (as I stated with engine instruments in the green), we were NOT overloaded, and the windsock in the video clearly shows the winds as I discussed.

        A downdraft, maybe, but from what? And how do you see the downdraft?

        The stall horn squeaks all the time on takeoff, so that doesn’t prove anything.

        Anyway, I feel like I’m getting a bit defensive like this but I’m obviously not trying to hide anything, or I wouldn’t have shown the video.

        Nothing is missing and I’m not being secretive.

        • Earl

          Chris: Please don’t misunderstand my questions. I have no doubt you are telling us exactly the circumstances as you know them. And I don’t believe you are being secretive but clearly something is missing that you have not considered.

          I am not an aeronautical engineer but I am a geophysicist and I can tell you that flying is pure mathematics. Lift, thrust, drag, gravity, etc. can all be expressed mathematically for every flight under every condition. When you combine all the various factors you described it is just not mathematically possible that the plane did not perform reasonably close to expected. Therefore, either something that you described is not right whether you believe it or not or there is some other factor that none of us are considering. As for the latter as an explanation I can’t think of anything. I personally don’t think the downdraft idea is the answer. You were struggling to climb when you got out of ground effect long before you got to the end of the runway. And I think a strong downdraft would have a crosswind component and there is no evidence of that from the video. My best guess despite everything you describe is that for some reason the plane was not generating adequate thrust. I know you say it was but maybe someone with more expertise in engine performance could opine on whether you could have the RPM and MP indications and still not be generating full horsepower.

          I am trying to find a reasonable explanation otherwise we learn nothing from this near accident except shi! happens and sometimes we get lucky and survive. I just don’t believe in that concept and am struggling to learn something from this. Please keep up the dialogue and maybe we will come up with something.

          • We are trying to figure this out on another website right now and it’s looking like I might have gotten behind the ‘drag curve’. This is one of the current theories that if I had stayed on the runway a bit longer, I probably could have pulled out of it a lot easier.

            There’s also talk about the procedure I used, which up to this point I thought was correct. The video down below, posted by Bob, shows exactly how I TRIED to perform this, but it just didn’t work.

            It turns out that leaving the gear DOWN and having FULL FLAPS might be an answer.

            There’s also talk that the book numbers for Vx are totally incorrect, by 20 knots or so.

            So we are looking into it with a very sharp eye.

            The good news is that we can ‘figure it out’ and prevent it from happening again.

            Even at that, there wasn’t good stuff at the end of the runway wind and downdraft wise, but it still probably shouldn’t have been THIS scary.

          • signmanbob

            Hello Chris,
            Even a real pilot that would take more chances wouldn’t speak with such arrogance, knowing that there are so many parts to the equation of a successful flight. Only a certain amount of those factors are under the pilot’s control.

          • Very true.

  • Hector Davila

    Hey Chris,
    I found out about this video from They are actually having a nice little debate about the video which would be nice of you to chime in a bit over there if possible. One of the things that came up and something that I have curiosity about as well, is why you rotated as early as you did and let the stall horn come on. It is obviously a short runway, but you still had at least a couple hundred feet to go and the fact that the aircraft was loaded half its useful load, it just doesn’t make much sense to me that it wasn’t able to climb. There are obviously different things that can decrease performance such as engine roughness and pressure altitude, but a bonanza with the 300hp IO550 can climb allot better than that if you had let the airspeed come in. But of course, I can’t see the panel or anything so this is mere speculation and I am not accusing you of anything, sometimes crap happens. Another question I have is how you where able to make the camera be as stable as it was. Are you using a spring system of some kind?

    • Roger, I’ll go over there and chat about it too.

  • David

    Hi Chris,
    One more thought. My turbo normalized TR182 required that I lean it fairly significantly (approx 25gph which was approx double cruise numbers). Full rich and it would not develop full power, which for me was 31″. Does the TAT supplement require full rich for take-off? Is 29″ max take-off power?


    • Some of the Bonanza engines are set to 31 inches, but when they reach the cruise levels you have to pull the power back. TAT states that it should be under the max (the max is 29.5 or something) although they had set mine to 31.5 when we first had the aircraft.

      The requirement is full mixture all the way to cruise, and even then, sometimes you have to use the aux fuel pump to get extra.

  • Tom Green


    Thanks so much for posting your video and for your incredibly constructive approach to all the comments. It’s a great opportunity for us all to learn something.

    One thing I’m wondering is the following: you are saying that everything was set up fine and it should have been a breeze, but it wasn’t. I fully believe you that you ran the numbers (and I have had similar but not so extreme experiences with take-off not conforming to the POH), but this doesn’t help me to avoid situations like that in the future.

    Are you really just saying “Oh well, these things happen, it was bad luck.” ?
    Or are you planning for more take-off safety margins in the future? And if so, what will they be?

    Or are you just hoping that whatever conditions you experienced on this take-off don’t happen again?

    • Quoted from the post above
      “So, what was the biggest lesson for me?

      Know your personal minimums and the aircrafts ‘real’ minimums

      Although the handbook says you can do it, and everything ‘checks out’, know what you are and are not comfortable with. Also, know what your aircraft really CAN and CANNOT do.”

      In this case, a takeoff that wasn’t in the heat of the summer would help. So, morning or night.

      Or, just not doing it at all. It scared me enough to not want to attempt it regardless. In that case, I’d rather be alone.

      These conditions were greatly OUT of my control, but it doesn’t mean I can’t take more safety precautions and build my minimums better.

      There’s the stuff the manuals say you can do (which in this case, I wasn’t trusting anyway) and then there’s what you’re comfortable with. I wasn’t comfortable with this at all, which is why I’m not proud of it.

      It’s also the exact reason I decided to post it. Someone will learn a valuable lesson from it.

  • Reece

    I Praise God Chris that you and your friend are OK ! The first time I watch the video I could see were something was going wrong and you were adjusting you “Angle of Attack” to get airspeed. That was scary man! Will you show us the videos of the area you flew in?

    You are ok!!! Yeah!

  • Robert Boudreau


    I’ve been reading these posts with with skepticism. I’m a private pilot, have been flying all 43 years of my life, and have a degree in airport management. I’m a mathematical person, so I crunched some numbers. Thanks to Google Earth, I took the times off of your video and used the feet measurements from Google to come up with some speeds, which should be pretty close. From the mid-point of the runway, where the taxiway intersects, to the end of the runway, 1137 feet, your groundspeed was 71 knots, and from the end of the runway to passing the tall trees, 825 feet, your groundspeed was 81 knots. Those speeds are well within the flight envelope and are adequate for climb performance, especially considering the flaps setting you describe and your having the gear up, and into the headwind you describe. You became airborn at 1200 feet, but with the stall warning chirping, so your acceleration was questionable, I know you talked about manifold pressure, but what was your prop setting. Were throttle, prop, and mixture all firewalled? Since it sounds like the camera was plugged into the intercom, we can’t hear the engine noise, so it’s hard to tell what the RPM was.

    As many have stated, flying is completely mathematical, so if the numbers add up, you fly, if they don’t, you don’t. I’m sorry, but your numbers just don’t add up. And since you admitted at the start of the video that you were going to use every inch of a runway that is much longer than needed, and that you needed your mojo, you seem to have known what was going to transpire. Your conversations at the start and throughout the video lead me to believe that this was a stunt and that you purposefully your lives in danger, and that of the people on the ground, since there is a road and houses under your flight path.

    When you are at the end of the runway, you see the leaves to the left showing the light-colored underside of the leaves. If it was a headwind, you wouldn’t see this, you’d only see that if the branches were being blown away from you. Knowing your ground speeds, the only way you wouldn’t climb would be because of a tailwind. And since your stall warning is going off even as you pass the trees, that is the only logical explanation.

    • Robert,
      Before I get into responding to your particular post, you need to take a step back. You were not there. You didn’t know the conditions. And now you are running off of assumptions with Google Earth.

      So before you continue on with your outlandish conclusions as to this being a ‘stunt’ you should realize I won’t stand for it. I wouldn’t ever do a stunt, and if I didn’t, I’m start enough not to put that ‘stunt’ online.

      So save me the headache.

      It was a really messed up situation that scared the hell out of me.

      So, let’s get to your post.

      “From the mid-point of the runway, where the taxiway intersects, to the end of the runway, 1137 feet, your groundspeed was 71 knots, and from the end of the runway to passing the tall trees, 825 feet, your groundspeed was 81 knots. Those speeds are well within the flight envelope and are adequate for climb performance, especially considering the flaps setting you describe and your having the gear up, and into the headwind you describe.”

      This all sounds correct to me.

      “You became airborn at 1200 feet, but with the stall warning chirping, so your acceleration was questionable,”

      I’m still of the mind that there were thermals at that end of the runway, but I couldn’t disagree with this. Regardless, I was at a safe flying and climbing airspeed.

      “Were throttle, prop, and mixture all firewalled?”

      Really? Of course they were. I checked this on the takeoff roll. At this point, I wouldn’t expect you to believe that, though.

      “As many have stated, flying is completely mathematical”

      I totally and completely disagree with your ‘completely’. Are mathematics involved? Sure. But so are a million other variables that your calculator will never figure out. Claiming that it’s all about mathematics is laughable.

      “I’m sorry, but your numbers just don’t add up.”

      But you’re the one that came up with the awesome Google Earth Numbers. Of course they match up. 71 knots off the ground and 85 knots in the climb. This totally explains the 71 knot rotation, 85 knot VX and the slight headwind. How doesn’t the math add up?

      “And since you admitted at the start of the video that you were going to use every inch of a runway that is much longer than needed”

      Can you recall the first time you took off from a runway with a REAL 50 foot obstacle? Were you nervous or totally calm?

      I was being cautious, and if you want to ding me for that, go do this exact takeoff in these exact conditions and use half the runway if you’re comfortable, I don’t know.

      I used other training I had learned to build even more buffer between myself and the trees ahead, which I was nervous about being a first timer to a short strip with a 50 foot obstacle.

      Of course I’m going to be cautious. Yet another ‘fault’ of mine that actually turned out to help me, yet it’s a flaw? Interesting.

      “and that you needed your mojo, you seem to have known what was going to transpire.”

      If I know what was going to transpire, I wouldn’t have done it. I would have waited it out.

      I got my ‘mojo’ back because we had just landed with a tailwind and I had to stop quickly.

      Yes, we landed with a tailwind. So I’m absolutely 100% positive your wind theory is incorrect.

      Again, ding me for something I did correctly. I wanted to get my focus before I had a go at this.

      ” Your conversations at the start and throughout the video lead me to believe that this was a stunt and that you purposefully your lives in danger, and that of the people on the ground, since there is a road and houses under your flight path.”

      You’re insulting.

      Why on God’s Green Earth would I do that? This wasn’t a stunt, so unless you have something useful to say with all of your fancy mathematics, your degree, and your 43 years of flying, don’t bother.

      “When you are at the end of the runway, you see the leaves to the left showing the light-colored underside of the leaves.”

      Wow, this sounds like Legolis from Lord of the Rings. You’re like some cool Elf Guy would can tell the direction of the wind by the sound of the wind in the trees and the way they look. That’s talent. You’re good, real good.

      “If it was a headwind, you wouldn’t see this, you’d only see that if the branches were being blown away from you. ”

      Wrong, because it WAS a headwind.

      “Knowing your ground speeds, the only way you wouldn’t climb would be because of a tailwind. And since your stall warning is going off even as you pass the trees, that is the only logical explanation.”


      Nothing else to say really.

      Nice try, though.

      • Robert Boudreau

        Okay, first of all, I’m not trying to be insulting. Your post was all about blaming the performance of the plane, but as many of us have posted, that’s not exactly believable. I, as well as others, are simply trying to solve a puzzle, but the “numbers” you provide just don’t add up. I admit I’ve done some stupid things in a plane, so sorry for calling it a stunt, but some of your comments in the video do tend to open up that possibility. And many of us have expertise in other areas, so be careful what say. If somebody knowledgable in agriculture makes a statement, comparing it to a fictitious person and story is childish, but I’ll address that more later.

        Flying is about numbers, and numbers don’t lie, they are what they are. If the stall warning is going off while the plane has a 81 knot ground speed, then there has to be an explanation. You traveled half a mile with your stall warning going on and off, and couldn’t climb 85 feet over that distance? There’s something here not adding up. And, I’m sorry, did you actually state that you were at a safe flying and climbing airspeed? Really? You were flying thru the trees with your stall warning going off. That’s not my definition of safe.

        Flight 101 – Your engine, thru the prop, creates thrust, which, overcoming drag, creates airspeed. Airflow over the wings creates lift, lift counteracts weight, the faster you go, the more lift is created. All of these are numbers, drag and weight are generally fixed values, though in your case, raising the gear reduces drag. The weight of the plane is generally fixed, getting lighter as fuel burns off, but rarely does a plane gain weight while in flight (not counting ice). Drag will raise slightly as speed increases, but not by an amount that would make a difference here.

        In none of your posts did you state the prop setting, so excuse me for asking. I would certainly hope they were all firewalled, but how would we know if we don’t ask.

        Since the video started with you turning around, how would we know you had JUST landed? You could have been there for an hour for all we know. Oh, by the way, why did you land with a tailwind? And why would that mean that you would have to use all of the runway taking off, knowing you were going into a headwind? According to Airnav,the slope to clear trees at either end of the airport is the same, so you gained nothing by taking that risk.

        When you grow up in the country, you learn things, including figuring out wind effects on plants and trees. When the wind blows towards you, you see the darker tops of the leaves, when the wind blows away from you, you see the lighter bottom of the leaves. Sorry, that’s just the way God made it.

        Now, let’s talk about thermals. Thermals are columns of rising air caused by solar heating. The hot air rises, cools, then descends outside of the thermal, but it’s rate of descent slows as it gets close to the warmer ground, then flows towards the center of the thermal, where it repeats the process. So, if you were flying into a thermal, guess what, you would have a tailwind, then would reach the updraft, which would cause you to climb, kind of like sailplanes do.

        We are all trying to answer the question of ‘why’. Answering that question could be key to saving a life in the future. You were there, that’s a given, we weren’t, that’s a given, so we will ask what sound like difficult questions. They are not personal attacks, they are to gather information, and if the answers don’t add up, we ask more questions. It’s what the NTSB would do if you clipped a tree. Obviously, since we can’t see the instruments, we don’t know what they read, we can’t see the flap settings, engine controls, gear lever, etc., so we ask. If our questions and observations offend you, welcome to life, my friend.

        • I have a very simple response to what you said, and I hope that everyone is watching.

          Some of what you said is true. I’ve got to give that to you. Facts are facts.

          Don’t discount the fact that you said everything in flying is mathematical.

          The conditions were what they were, you’re welcome to ask pertinent questions, but I’m not going to entertain this anymore.

          You’re insulting by saying that ‘the numbers don’t add up’. Really? The airspeeds (and thus, the ground speeds) were what they were.

          What doesn’t add up is why with the quote ‘Correct Airspeeds’ (which I am now doubting by talking to other Bonanza pilots) the aircraft didn’t perform the way it should.

          You’re welcome to speculate on the conditions on your own time, but let’s talk about the ‘why’s’ here rather than the ‘your numbers don’t add up’.

          Save your vast knowledge of the worlds conditions, the performance of the aircraft at the time, and all the other mathematical variables for somewhere else.

          With all these calculations you would have been thinking about way more than what was important in this situation, regardless of whether it was done right or wrong, which is flying the airplane and getting out of it. It’s counterproductive to flight safety.

          Let’s try to find the MISSING piece rather than the INCORRECT piece.

          The winds were correct.
          The aircraft was setup for takeoff.
          I did the procedure to the best of my knowledge.

          Either their was wind sheer at the end of the runway and/or there was a discrepancy with the takeoff procedure.

          The reality is that is was probably a mixture of both, but the facts of the situation I have stated remain.

          And your leaf reading vs. my visual reading of the windsock isn’t proof enough to make be believe the wind shifted that much in 2 minutes.

          I did the procedure as was published but something happened.

          So, let’s talk about one USEFUL thing at a time, or not at all.

  • I don’t see how you had that much trouble at a 2600 ft. runway at 267 Ft. above sea level. After you kept the nose down and gained some airspeed you should of been able to pull the nose up and climbed at your best angle of climb. Here is a video of mine as I climb over some trees on a 1800 ft strip in Oregon City, OR.

    • SHOULD have is the key. But I couldn’t

      Thanks for the video, Bob.

      Talking over at, it sounds like there is some misunderstanding on what short field ops should be with the Bonanza.

      Some are saying to use full flaps and keep the gear DOWN for the entire climb.

      Others are saying keep the aircraft on the ground longer and ‘pop’ over the trees.

      Maybe great theories and it’s nice because they ACTUALLY start to answer some questions. Things I can actually improve on, rather than guesses and leaf reading.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Good job, again, and good video.

      BTW, when you pop that nose up, do you get a little stall chirp?

      Also, what kind of aircraft is this?

    • jnes1021

      love your videos Bob … especially the Flying B Ranch in Idaho … I have subscribed to your videos …

  • jnes1021

    I listened to the FS Break this AM … and thought two things … Brandon added nothing but comic relief throughout the flights all day when it was not the time to do so … It was too hard to get a sterile cabin with him in the right seat … and if he really wants to be a CFI I would not want to fly with him … he seems like the guy at the bar buying the drinks and making all of the noise …

    Brandon …Shut up!

    and also … the thread here is very interesting … especially from pilots like yourself … it might have been a day when you were not fully concentrating … maybe tired … maybe thinking of the move to Alaska … maybe listening to the guy next to you … but I believe especially after following you for these past three months … watching your takeoff at Concrete … it just did not seem like you …

    I understand from FS Break that you had a tire blow out at the next airport that might have been damaged on your downwind arrival at Concrete …

    if the worse had happened … they would have heard two guys laughing too much before the take off … the words ” love you man … ” would have echoed through my ears … I am so happy that you guys made your way through the trees and am glad that you are able to share this to figure it all out …

    If I were you Brandon would never fly with me … again

    • Hey John,
      I’m going to have to disagree.

      Brendan is 16 and shows awesome knowledge for that age. One day he will make a safe and competent instructor that I’m sure even I could learn something from.

      I would fly with Brendan again in a heartbeat.

      I don’t feel as though I was distracted from the task at hand that day, but it may look like I am.

      Although it may ‘look’ like it wasn’t me, it was. There were circumstances in play that were very difficult for me to get out of. Things of which I’ve been teaching you guys all along.

      It was an unfortunate chain of events that lead to something quite scary.

      There is certainly something to learn here, and maybe one of those things is the cockpit chatter

      But I am not of the belief that all pilots should do is sit there and be procedural all the time. That’s not the real world and if any pilot says he never has ‘chatter’ in the aircraft, he’s a liar.

      Obviously with larger airliners where the aircraft is complex enough that there needs to be a stringent CRM environment, that’s a different story. I can totally understand that.

      But this is a Bonanza, an aircraft often, used for pleasure, but it is also to be taken very seriously.

      I did the procedure to my knowledge, on the nose, distracted or not.

  • Bob Bement

    Chris, If I hold it on 60 miles/hour I don’t get the stall warning to come on. If I have to do any turning I would want to carry a little additional airspeed in that case. My plane is a 1959 Cessna 182 and I was alone with almost full fuel.

    • Hey Bob,
      Completely different aircraft. The numbers would be REALLY different in a Bonanza.

      Cessna’s were made for short field ops. Although Bonanzas aren’t supposed to be BAD at it, they are more of a ‘cruiser’ and ‘fast traveler’.

      But, you probably know that.

  • Muhammad Rahim

    Well I only have about 200 hrs in a Cessna 172. Got my PPSEL back in 1999 (KTEB) but I’m no longer active/current so I don’t have much to offer in actual experience. My only max performance takeoffs and landings were during my training and during my checkride 🙂
    I’ll say this…. Chris thank God you’re ok. I admire your courage in sharing this with those of us that truly like to learn as well as those Monday morning quarterbacks that are only here to insult. I’m insulted to read some of their comments too! (stunt, ploy to get website hits, etc) give me a F*&%$@ break. No pilot in his right mind would pull a “stunt”. Something out of ordinary truly happened and I hope we can figure it out for all our sake. I’m inclined to think wind shear or downdrafts also.
    This really brings back memories of my days of practicing short field and max perf takeoffs. and reading the constructive comments here and over at has been very rewarding and educational. Thanks again for sharing, and don’t let the insulting idiots deter you from being the person you are. You didn’t have to post this but you’re a good person that love to help others and possibly save lives. In my short time in the cockpit, I’ve had about 3 hair raising moments. 2 with an instructor that saved my bacon and one by myself while practicing touch and go’s… I forgot to raise the flaps after touchdown so when a rotated, the nose pitched up like a bat out of hell….lol. scared the crap out of me! I got that nose down, picked up airspeed and resisted the temptation to immediately go to flaps up 🙂
    Oh the other scare was my first stall recovery practice with my instructor, for some reason, I was afraid of the whole thing so at the stall, I pushed the yoke FULL forward while advancing the throttle to full which resulted in a 90 degree nose down look at mother earth…lol. I did that twice until I realized that all i needed was to release back pressure and add full power NOT full forward yoke 🙂

    • Stalls are quite difficult for everyone at first.

      Yeah, it’s a bit hard ignoring the know-it-alls and people that think this was some sort of stunt.

      What it was was a really messed up situation that I was lucky and blessed enough to get out of, so I can now be here and learn what went wrong.

      Thankfully I had enough training at the time to make up for the mistakes that I may have made.

  • Mark Hammond

    Chris, just listened to this on the FSBreak podcast and had to see the video. That’s what you call a close shave! The temptation to pull back on the stick must have been overwhelming. I’m very glad you and the others made it back safe!

    • Me too.

      Still trying to sort out what happened here so I can fix the issue for the future.

  • Paul G.

    Hi Chris,

    I’ve posted before (C-210 PPL pilot) and let me say thank goodness you savaged a very scary situation by holding the nose down. Also thank you for being brave enough to post this on the Internet and share.

    Can you type up your Bonanza’s published short field take-off for a 50 ft obstacle from your POH for the density altitude you calculated (unless there is a digital version you can refer me to)? I’d like to compare the procedure with my plane.

    I noticed a lot a variable wind in the trees just before you turned around. I live near the Rocky Mountains and ridges can act like “wings” by creating a pocket of low pressure air as the wind comes up over the ridge. As I was not there I have no idea if this was the case.

    Where I live we get “checked out” for mountain flying. While it is not a legal requirement, we understand that mountains have their own laws especially when it comes to winds. I have a personal rule not to fly in the mountains when the winds are more than 20 knots aloft at mountain height.

    Again, thanks for sharing and continue to stay safe.

    • Hey Paul,
      Thanks for the comment. I’m not able to post the specs right now, as I no longer fly this aircraft. I moved to Alaska!

      Also, I have tons of mountain flying experience/training. Tons, aka, about 500 hours worth (if not more). I was based in KSLC, so that would explain why.

      Throttle On!

  • signmanbob

    Do you think someone might have been in those buildings to the left taking bets?
    I was just kidding and I know you don’t take chances with your piloting. I’m sure that as you go over the situation, you’ll find the answers to why things happened the way they did.
    When you do, please share that also.
    I’m thinking that other pilots that fly that airport regularly must know what aircraft have more problems. It might be a good idea in the future, to call an airport that you may feel doubtful about and ask the person at the desk what problems you might run into there.
    I called a small airport out west one time because I seen it in some addon scenery in FSX and had some questions about how real the scenery was because I seen helicopters parked in the scenery. The guy at the desk told me that they don’t even allow helicopters there, and he was very nice.
    Oh, by the way, how accurate is the Orbx scenery at Concrete?

    • Hey Bob, it’s very accurate.

      As far as people in the buildings, we did see some people over there. Probably wouldn’t hurt to ask them some of the specifics about the wind behavior at that airport.

  • Just downloaded the FTX Concrete and Israel’s Farm airstrips a few days ago then read this. Im not a RW pilot but can only imagine the adrenalin rush that occurred. I read the RW PNW flying forum during the week and figured your video and blog would be interesting to those pilots. Here’s a link to what they are saying about Concrete.;topicseen#new

    • Hey Ken,
      Thanks for very much for that link. Sounds like those guys have their own things to say. I don’t have time to go through all of it. Were there any guys that are from or around that airport that talked about wind behavior?

  • Frank Stutzman

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears to me that at about 1:15 in I can see a windsock off to the right that is showing a left quartering tail wind.

    I don’t know what kind of Bonanza you are in or how you were loaded, but 2600 feet of is way sufficient runway for my ancient (and small engined) Bonanza given reasonable density altitude. Considering that Concrete is nearly at sea level, you should have been off the ground in about 1200 feet. At that point you had almost another 2200 feet to clear those 75 foot trees (if the data for Concrete at is to be trusted). Should be eminently doable.

    Assuming that you didn’t indeed have a tail wind.

    Frank Stutzman
    Bonanza N494B
    Boise, ID

    • Frank,
      Thanks for the note.
      Right now I don’t have the full HD image, but in the coming days I can upload the windsock picture. It is in fact a headwind, albeit, left quartering.

      Also, I’m assuming at this stage that the issue was a premature liftoff, which put me well below the drag curve, with the addition of a very strong and shearing left crosswind once getting into the open (just second after takeoff)

      Naturally, this combination was near deadly, regardless of the short field takeoff procedure.

  • Rick Armellino

    Glad you made it … I think you may have picked up a tailwind during liftoff and the initial climb, or took off into a column of descending air.

    I’ve got over 5,000 total time and over 30 years flying single engines, and had two instances during cruise in beautiful clear VFR weather where a fairly large sized (maybe 2 or 3 miles in diameter) column of descending air resulted in powering up and losing a bunch of airspeed in order to maintain altitude. Rare, and wierd stuff …..

    On another subject – could you describe your in-cockpit camera and sound system? It’s the best I’ve seen (and heard) and lacks the annoying prop strobe effect. Thanks.

    • I don’t think it was quite a tailwind, but I think it sheared to a very strong crosswind. I’ll show the video of that later. Pretty intense stuff…

      It was a very weird situation, one that I had never faced before. I could have done better with the technique, come to find out (did what I knew at the time) but there was also an environmental issue.

      The setup is a 5DMKII simply placed on the glareshield. It’s hooked with a sound cable you can get at Simple setup!

  • Leigh

    Pretty good example of the consequences of taking off with the wind, agravated by the tall trees etc that can result in sink as the wind spills over them just where you are trying to climb. You are very fortunate to not be a statistic.

    • Bruce

      I missed something here, who has established that this was a downwind takeoff?

      The only person who has the answer for sure is the pilot & he says not!

      I am sure that if he did commit such a mistake this video would not have seen the light of day.

      • You’re right,
        I would have chalked that up to my own idiocy (which I do own some) but this wasn’t the case.

        This was a headwind takeoff, as it should have been.

        • Charles Earl

          Simple to see that it is a headwind take off. Look at the flag and sock at 40 seconds and at 1:00 onward until they dissapear from view! Pretty strong headwind. Appears to have some unpredeictable gusts though.


    • Patrick

      Did you bother to look at the 2 or 3 windsocks on the right in full screen mode? They are indicating a headwind or, if anything else, a quarterly crosswind from ahead. It’s most definitely not a tailwind.

      • Bruce

        sure did, in HD on a 24″ monitor. Check the 3rd windsock at minute 01.16 just before lift off. Changed your mind?

        • Patrick

          No it didn’t change my mind at all, because the pole of that windsock is to the left while the sock is on the right. If this was a tailwind we would see the exact opposite from this viewing position. Plus, we don’t see the opening of the windsock (which would be the case if it was a tailwind) but only the reflection of the sun on its top. I have to repeat myself: If anything this was a crosswind from the front left but definitely not a tailwind. Windsocks don’t point towards the wind, you know? 😉

          For further evidence watch the latest FSBreak episode for the landing footage at Concrete. They came in FROM the West and after touchdown we get a clear shot of one of the windsock indicating a definite tailwind blowing from the West. Now, landing downwind wasn’t the best thing to do either, but since the takeoff TO the West was only moments later it’s very, very safe to assume that the wind was still blowing from the West, which makes it a headwind, as indicated by the windsock(s) in this video.

          p.s.: I have an 24″ monitor as well and watched th video in HD too, if that has anything to do with it. 😉

    • I would be ashamed to be a statistic based on false information. I’d rather go down as a martyr, teaching something that wasn’t previously known.

      But, this wouldn’t be the case here. I had a headwind/crosswind departure.

  • John

    The windsocks (there are two visibile on the hangars) are anything but stable. They are whipping about as though the wind is gusty with variable direction. I don’t know about THIS strip, or THIS situation, but I’ve often seen wind shifts from midfield to departure end under that have turned a highly variable wind favorable for takeoff in one direction into a tailwind that puckers things pretty strongly. I agree this was a tailwind takeoff.

    • Melinda

      neve once did i see the windsock indicate a tailwind take off. look again. This was a crosswind/headwind.

      • Rob Boudreau

        Here’s an aeronautical question concerning the crosswind flight:

        IF it was a crosswind, why do we not see a crab into the wind. His flight path is directly where the nose is pointed. If it was a left crosswind, his nose would be left of the track, which it obviously is not.

        • Leigh

          Rob, this is because right at rotation the pilot used crossed controls to keep the nose pointing forward which is also why he couldn’t get any decent rate of climb.

          • I didn’t use cross controls. That would be poor on performance.

        • Rob,
          The camera makes the whole thing pretty deceiving. If the camera were pointed right down the longitudinal axis, which it’s not, it would be a lot easier to see the crab angle.

          I have plenty of video showing landings and stuff where it looks like I’m totally off, yet, in the last 5 feet when the runway really comes in focus you can see it’s lined up.

          Just a visual illusion is all.

      • Thanks, Melinda. You’re correct.

    • I believe the wind shifted to a crosswind, but it wasn’t a tailwind takeoff.

  • Dude!

    I’m so very glad you didn’t eat those big macs when you were there you would have never made it!

    Very good teaching points and great post as always man…

    But I have to point out…. Blown tire, now a near miss… Chris i’m worried about you 🙂


    • Thanks, Jason.

      Yeah, too many close calls. Someone I talked to told me they’d stop flying after this.

      But, you don’t stop driving a car if you almost get in an accident, right?

      Someone is watching out for me.

  • Demonick

    Chris, why did you choose to land downwind? Did you simply land on 7, taxi to 25, and takeoff again?

    Glad you survived.

    • Hey there,

      We landed on runway 7, taxied back to the middle of the field, chilled out for a few minutes (airplane was still running) and then we made a go at runway 25, which was favored by the winds.

  • joseph

    Dude I really dig your website’s logo!

  • Floyd Mcclure

    This is either staged or these are two very big dorks with little aviation skill. Don’t buy your next rating ladies, drop that “checked” crap and learn to fly the plane by looking outside. Next rating you get you should try earning.

    • Question: Did we survive? Was the airplane stalled? Was there anything that was done totally wrong in this procedure?

      I want to know what credentials you have to say such things, if you even have any at all.

      We are all trying to learn here, and all you want to do is attack.

      Take your abrasive comments somewhere else, because you’re not welcome here.

  • Leigh

    With respect Patrick, it seems that you might consider getting a CFI experienced in flying your type of plane to some refresher training on handling it at slower speeds such as takeoffs and landings on something other than 5000 ft plus runways. What seems to have excaped your comprehension is that by simply pulling back a bit on the controls you could have easily cleared those trees since it is obvious that you were well above stall speed. By not getting altitude while still over the runway you got into a situation where you were flying below the tree tops allowing the wind to spill down on you and fight your climb at that point, though it still would have helped if you had tried to climb. I fly an Arrow with 180 hp and have come out of runways much shorter than that with obsrutions at both ends with loading comparable to yours, but one’s technique is kind of important and not something to learn on your own when trying to come out of a short strip with clearance issues. Since I understand you are moving to Alaska, the need for such additional training is much more urgent to avoid any bad outcomes.

    • Who’s Patrick?

      • Patrick

        I’m Patrick. But he probably meant you. Leigh mixes things up sometimes. Reality and fiction for instance. 😀

  • signmanbob

    I see a lot of Monday night quarterbacks with plenty of hind-sight.
    I believe Chris is as good of a pilot as they come anywhere, yet piloting is risk-management and no matter how well you manage the risk, it is always present.
    Unforeseen variables can show their face at anytime. I believe Chris handled the situation very well and the proof is that he is still with us.
    I thought it was pretty gutsy and open, to share that video with everyone, but he is taking a lot of flack for it. I doubt if we will see any more interesting videos of close encounters from Chris. Of course, I hope there won’t be any more, but if there is, I doubt he will go through this post- experience beating again (:

    • Hey Bob,
      I would go through this again. It is a great learning experience. Based on the discussion I’ve sen, people have really learned a lot and have taken a look at situations like this.

      It would be worth posting again.

      However, do I plan on doing anything like this again? No. I feel I have a grasp on what took place, and how to fly it better next time (regardless of the uncontrollable variables).

      Thanks for the support as always, Bob. Good to see some people that can see through this.

  • Leigh

    Well Tom, maybe you should look into a mirror if you want to see an idiot.

    I have to assume that you are not a pilot for you to make such statements. In the video it is clear that he never really rotates as the nose hardly lifts at all, suggesting that he was a long long way from stalling. If you look at the time displayed on the video from the time he starts his takeoff roll you will see that he crosses the other end of the runway (over 2600 ft including displacements) in about 30 seconds for an AVERAGE speed of 60 mph, therefore he was going a lot more than that at the far end, likely over 90, maybe even 100 ground speed. Assuming that he didn’t have a tailwind then his airspeed was even greater which gave him a huge margin above stalling, yet you say he couldn’t pull back to gain some altitude. I don’t know why he didn’t pull back but clearly he didn’t and could have and thus avoided all the drama. I also can’t imagin why he was concerned about getting airborne off this 2600 ft runway since at the DA he was at he had far more than that needed to take off and clear the trees. His comments on the video before trying to takeoff suggest he didn’t know if he had enough which suggests that he isn’t the great pilot you suggest, at least not experienced in taking off from runways that are not 5 or 10 thousand feet long perhaps. If you don’t know for sure you can get airborne it is irresponsible to “try”, moreso with two passengers whose lives you are jeopardizing with the experiment. What the heck was he thinking in doing this? It borders on criminal.

    For you to suggest that perhaps he was “on the back side of the power curve” is hilarious since the nose of his plane sure didn’t lift. From this I assume you are not a pilot, just a sim one.

    I do respect him for posting this video as hopefully it will help him avoid these kind of mistakes in the future by learning. I really do hope he gets hold of his CFI and reviews this takeoff etc. I figure he is a nice fellow and it would be a damned shame to read about him in an accident report. Experience is a great teacher but the tuition can kill you.

    • Tom Green

      I put it to you that your comments here reveal your lack of knowledge, or care, or both.
      1) You first off assumed it was a downwind take-off, which Chris has told us it wasn’t, and which folks more diligent than I have confirmed by looking at the socks.
      2) A big part of Chris’s whole story was that he had to force himself not to pull the nose up, because he didn’t have any airspeed to spare. (from his original post: “All that is ‘human‘ in me told me to ‘pull up!‘ but all of my training said ‘airspeed, airspeed, airspeed‘. This meant a lower nose attitude than was comfortable, but the reality is it was better than stalling and not having a chance to get out at all. This is VERY difficult to stick with.”). This is totally inconsistent with your assumption that he could have simply pulled up. That is what is idiotic: “Oh, pull up! Of course! I should have thought of that…”
      3) I never suggested he is a great pilot. In fact I mentioned that “I’m not saying Chris didn’t mess up.” I believe he messed up. I don’t know whether it was a misinterpretation of the book numbers or poor pilot technique or a combination. There are downdrafts of course that will make a situation not conform to the book, in which case his screw-up was an insufficient margin of safety.
      4) I applaud your efforts to investigate this near-accident by timing the video and trying to estimate the angle of attack from the video, but since you can’t see the instruments, these techniques are subject to significant errors.
      5) You chastised me for thinking he might have been on the backside of the power curve, but look at the attitude / stall warning at lift-off, followed by lowering the nose to gain airspeed – perhaps he rotated a little early and was briefly on the backside of the power curve; enough to degrade the climb performance and contribute to his problems.

      By the way, I am a ‘real pilot’, not a ‘sim pilot.’

      • Hey Tom,
        The whole power curve thing is a very interesting discussion, and may be a valid issue with the technique.

        Additionally, as you so greatly pasted, I was giving it all I could. I couldn’t simply ‘pull up’.

        I’ve learned a lot, and if put in this situation again, it would be a non-event. But that’s what the brunt of a bunch of different opinions and actual facts can do.

        Thanks for defending this situation from a practical standpoint. It’s clear you have a level head about it all.

    • “In the video it is clear that he never really rotates as the nose hardly lifts at all, suggesting that he was a long long way from stalling.”

      I was on the brink of stalling the entire time. I was doing the best I could with the aircraft, regardless of your assumptions about what my airspeed was and what the performance is like with a Bonanza.

      “His comments on the video before trying to takeoff suggest he didn’t know if he had enough which suggests that he isn’t the great pilot you suggest, at least not experienced in taking off from runways that are not 5 or 10 thousand feet long perhaps. If you don’t know for sure you can get airborne it is irresponsible to “try”, moreso with two passengers whose lives you are jeopardizing with the experiment. What the heck was he thinking in doing this? It borders on criminal.”

      Do you remember the first time you took off at an airport like this? There’s a difference between practice and the real thing. It’s a whole different story when there are REAL trees there, like in this situation.

      Earlier I had taken off from a similar field in length and altitude, and I had no issues at all. Therefore, I was hyped up by having the ACTUAL thing right there in front of me- no more pretending.

      You have some pretty bold and rude suggestions here.

      “For you to suggest that perhaps he was “on the back side of the power curve” is hilarious since the nose of his plane sure didn’t lift. From this I assume you are not a pilot, just a sim one.”

      And you obviously haven’t flown a Bonanza before. My rotation in this procedure was probably too aggressive, which exacerbated the issue.

      “I do respect him for posting this video as hopefully it will help him avoid these kind of mistakes in the future by learning. I really do hope he gets hold of his CFI and reviews this takeoff etc. I figure he is a nice fellow and it would be a damned shame to read about him in an accident report. Experience is a great teacher but the tuition can kill you.”

      Some good blips here, but there are tons of horrible CFIs out there. I’m not saying the CFIs I have flown with are bad, because some where very great. But none of them have EVER done anything like this before.

      Merely suggesting I should get a hold of a CFI like that is the fix-all is pretty laughable.

      I would take a guy that is a non-CFI with 4000 Bonanza hours to show me rather than an actual CFI any day.

      This is a bold statement, so brace for impact: CFIs know little but what experience teaches them, just like any other pilot.

  • signmanbob

    “I have to assume that you are not a pilot for you to make such statements”
    I have to also assume that you’re not an investigator, since your focus is on simply on tryjing to make yourself look intelligent at Chris’ expense.
    I also have to assume that you are not a real pilot, since I have never seen a “real” pilot act so insensitive toward fellow pilots.
    Real pilots know that dangerous situations can happen at any time to any pilot, and they wouldn’t be stepping up on a soapbox to run another pilot into the dirt. Especially calling an event like this “bordering on criminal”. That is an irresponsible statement obviously made by a non-pilot.
    Chris titled this video “My Scariest Moment” because he wanted to share it with his sim enthusiast and students, that would appreciate the real risks involved with real piloting verses the safety of the virtual world of MSFS and X-Plane.
    If he needed your snobbish opinion, he would have titled it “What Should Have I Done?”
    James Stephen Fossett was one of the most skilled and experienced pilots who was respected by the whole aviation world, yet he is a stain on the side of a mountain. A humble end for a great aviator.
    But I’m sure you could have showed him a thing or two….yeah….right.

    • Bob,
      HAHAHA! Some great one liners here.

      The truth is that although there is a great brotherhood of safety oriented pilots, we all aren’t of one mind. I have seen pilots do very unsafe things and justify it.

      I’ve also seen people dodge clouds with an instrument rating, making me wonder if they ever try new SAFE things (like this takeoff) with their aircraft.

      I’m not saying I live on the edge, but I know what is safe and isn’t.

      This takeoff should have been a non-event and I’m learning more and more why things turned out the way they did.

  • Bruce


    Nuff said surely!

    Thanks Chris for posting the video & sharing your experience with us!

  • Bob Gardner

    Air pockets? I thought that concept was laughed off back in the 30s. I think downdraft is a more descriptive term.

    Never took off from Concrete, but I had a similar experience flying a not-too-skinny Channel 7 reporter out of Darrington. Followed the road, hoping that I wouldn’t need it.

    • Sure, downdraft may be a little different, but I think it’s more complex than that.

      I think it was a mix of a very small downdraft, a strong shear crosswind, and a different ‘thermal’ over the ‘grassy area’ decreasing the performance.

      Of course, that’s longer to explain than just saying air pocket 😉

      Thanks for the comment.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing your video and your experience. I’ll add to this as best I can.

    I am a pilot working on my IFR. March 13, 2010 I was involved in a single engine airplane crash. I was NOT flying, I was a rear seat passenger with my 2 year old son.

    Here is the NTSB report:

    My very dear friend and one of the best pilots I know was at the controls. 14,000 plus hours. U name the rating, he has it. This fine day, none of that mattered. BY the grace of GOd we all walked away from the crash. I now belong to a very elite group of aircraft accident survivors, especially in a plane that was destroyed. 4 souls left that day, 4 walked (*kind of) away.

    My point is you were very lucky and it is apparent you are no slouch of a pilot. You can do everything right and still end up on the wrong side of the sky. I know what it feels like to break both femurs, not fun. That’s a tremendous amount of impact for a seatbelt. At 6’2″ 225 lbs. I was tossed like a rag doll. Piloting saved our lives ultimately as my buddy flew the plane to the crash site.

    I respect you showed the video and to me, I could hear the sincere gratitude of being alive in your voice. Good for you. It’s also evident that at no point in this video did you panic. Also the sign of a good pilot.

    It’s easy to cast judgements when you’ve not been there. May you never have another close call but if you do…I feel you will handle it just fine.

    • Leigh

      Glad you survived but am curious why the pilot was unable to do an engine-out landing without crashing considering that part of the world isn’t exactly mountainous? Seems to me from my experience is that Cessan 206’s are pretty good for slow soft field landings.

      • Horribly insensitive.

        You are going to be getting an email from me regarding the way you conduct yourself on my blog.

        As you can see, the people here won’t stand for it.

        You’re warned, but I won’t chastise you more here. Look for my email soon.

    • signmanbob

      Here is the response of a real pilot Leigh. Just so you know for future reference when you want to really sound like one.

      • Leigh

        So Bob, a pilot who can’t land a plane safely on the plains of OK after losing an engine is a “real pilot”? Seems to me you are missing something.

        • Patrick

          In your little fantasy world Oklahoma might be one big perfectly fine surface where an ace pilot like you can land without problems but in the real world normal run of the mill pilots have to deal with little details like trees, lamp posts, sinkholes, treetrunks, muddy ground, animals, cars, people, telephone & power lines, fences and a ton of other things that can kill you during a forced landing. Even with no mountains around.

        • You are missing something. The guys in this accident didn’t. They hit a stump, a mole hill, or a ditch, it doesn’t matter. Crap happens and to assume it was pilot error is freakin’ ridiculous.

          Seriously, watch yourself. This is getting out of control.

        • Why was your friend flying near a thunderstorm? Those kill people too. Sorry for your loss.

          Very easy to assume it was nice and flat. Everyone walked away, and this guy now has a sweeter appreciation for life.

          Show a little respect.

          • Leigh

            They were at the end of a four hour flight about midnight and there were storms moving in but not over the airport yet. They missed their first approach and were going to do another but the radar track showed the plane veared off the normal track and went down into the Atalantic. Seems that there were three witnesses who claim to have seen a plane on fire going down near the last radar contact but there was no radio contact from them after aknowledging the controllers instructions regarding the missed approach. Yesterday they called off the search since there is no chance of finding them alive anymore. No one knows why the plane crashed, perhaps it was hit by lightning which we all know can come out of a clear sky within miles of a storm. (One of my son’s highschool classmates was killed while playing center field in a baseball game well after the storm had passed.) Anyhow, now our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and young kids.

            I have flown for 38 years and will continue to do so as long as I can pass medicals. I have had friends and associates die in crashes, many of them totally avoidable which is perhaps why I take proficiency serously and was somewhat shocked by the cavalier attitude of some here making comments such as “way to go, dude, wow” etc

            Chris I know you are a responsible person who is working to become a better pilot, something even the most experienced should do and usually do. This activity of flying need not be dangerous unless we take a cavalier attitude to it, at least no more dangerous than other things such as driving a car, certainly less so than a motorcycle. I expect you have reviewed your actions during that takeoff and learned from them. i for one am very glad that you didn’t have an accident during that one but hope to never come quite as close as you did to one. I have had flights that did have me thinking “that wasn’t the best way to do that” and in some cases I did get hold of better much more experienced pilots to get advice (sure do agree with your observation about many CFI’s not being the best for experience of unusual situations). The best I have found are the old bush pilots who have flown tens of thousands of hours working from strips that hardly qualify as airports or in some cases not from airports at all, and have flown over a hundred different types. I expect that you will find such in Alaska and like me find they are a great source of knowledge that you can’t get from the books.

            Enjoy your flying Chris, stay safe too.

          • signmanbob

            I’m real sorry about the loss of your friend, Leigh.
            I have to say that now you are sounding to me, like my vision of what a real pilot should be.
            You have to remember that we are not all real pilots here, but many of us, like myself, are folks who have chosen other carriers and paths. Maybe because the road we took didn’t lead in that direction, physical limitations didn’t allow it, or something else just grabbed our interest early on and the circumstances that expose one to aviation just were not there. Non the less, we still have a high admiration for that breed that become good pilots in real life, both commercial and recreational.
            When we are exposed to the writings of real pilots, like yourself and others on these blogs and forums, it represents the high standard of intellectual maturity and focus that we envision is required from all serious pilots in order to operate the most complex equipment safely in the most complex circumstances.
            Maybe because of the stress of the loss of your friend, you just were not displaying your real personality in your previous writing.
            From your most recent writing, I can say that I am persuaded that you are a real pilot of that special caliber that draws the admiration of those of us who have not traveled that road, but only remind ourselves of how special those people are through flight simulation.

    • Hey There,
      Not sure of your name, and that’s fine. I can imagine why you’d want to stay anonymous.

      Anyway, God Bless You my friend. Like you said, you are one of the few to live through a situation like that. The pilot you were flying with must have been exceptional. You all walked away.

      In a situation like that, what else can you ask for?

      Thanks for your humble comment and your willingness to put a new spin on this story.

      Happy skies to you, safe skies at that. Good luck with your instrument.

      Hope to see you around more.

      Throttle On!

  • Rainer

    Just another question.
    Does anybody knows where Chris is? It seems to me a little bit curious, since days (or just weeks) no sign, no comment, no new episode, just nothing…
    I hope everything is allright with him, and he´s well!


    • signmanbob

      He has been in the process of moving to Alaska. I can imagine that is no small task.
      He is probably up there stretched out on the beach with some bikini clad chick, watching the Russian border. Wait a minute, is that Sarah Palen?

      • HAHAHAHA! “I can see Russia from my house!”

    • Actually, Bob is incorrect. I tucked tail and ran because I couldn’t handle all of the feedback and horrible comments that hurt my feelings.


      My wife and I just drove 3200 miles to Alaska with a 5000 pound trailer and 2 pets in 5 days.

      I’m doing well and you are going to see a newer and stronger AOA than ever. It is now my full time duty.


      • signmanbob

        I’m glad to see that you made it safely and had a good trip. Where abouts in Alaska are you? That is some beautiful country just from the pictures and what I’ve seen on FSX, but with my Tropical loving blood, I wouldn’t do good there. (:

        • I’m in Homer, Alaska. Very nice here. Top temp each year is around 70, and the low is around 20 (above). Not bad at all!

          • signmanbob

            I checked out Homer on Wikipedia and it looks like a beautiful place. Only thing, I was right about Sarah Palin. Look at the news paper headlines:
            Saturday, August 7 2010
            “Palin visits Homer for cable TV show” Ha, ha.

      • Patrick

        Good to hear everything went fine! Glad to have you back. 😉

  • signmanbob

    “Flying is so many parts skill, so many parts planning, so many parts maintenance, and so many parts luck. the trick is to reduce the luck by increasing the others.” -David L. Baker

  • John

    Thanks for the note Chris:

    In my earlier post I didn’t mean to imply that the wind was from the tail while on the ground. However I’ve seen conditions in mountain strips where windsocks that whip around as they did in the video indicate a shear at about the tree top level. From the climb performance you described, and as recorded in the images of the video, it looks like that’s what happened. Variable, but head wind at the surface, with shear to tail wind after lift off… hence a tail wind takeoff. That helps understand the anemic climb performance of an otherwise capable airplane in the hands of a capable pilot.

    • Leigh

      What John describes is not all that unusual at strips with trees or montains around them. I’ve seen socks at both ends pointing in opposite directions, both indicating winds blowing away from the runway. When landing in such conditions one sure has to keep in mind that any missed approach might be very difficult since you will be climbing out with a tail wind, yet on final the wind direction seemed to indicate straight crosswind till below the level of the trees.

      The effect of strong tail winds can bite you even when well away from the airport. A few years ago a fellow flying a King Air hit a mountain top in IMC while climbing from a valley with a very strong tailwind. He had flown the route many times and had no trouble climbing over the ridge at his rate of climb but the tailwind increased his ground speed a lot thus flattening his angle of climb enough he got to the ridge much sooner and lower than he normally would have. The impact was about 40 ft from the top so he almost made it.

    • I have a video I’ll show you in a few days that shows what the wind situation is. It’s pretty intense.

      This will be part of the follow up diagnosis.

  • Muhammad Rahim

    did anyone see Most Extreme Airports on the history channel? If not, you missed a very interesting program. I missed it two times in a row so I was determined to set up my DVR for the next broadcast.
    Man, I’d really love to fly into Kai Tak. Maybe I’ll check out the FSX version 🙂

    • Leigh

      I still recall the first time I flew (as a passenger) into Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong back about 1986, at night so we could see into the windows of all the people living along the approach path. Sure seemed awful close as we could almost see what they were having for supper. I read that it was closed when the new airport was ready so your chance of actually flying into it I guess is gone. When ever experiencing the gong show that today passes for security at airports I’m glad I did all my international business travel before things got so stupid. I was doing about 150 to 200 flights a year on almost as many different airlines, some very good like Singapore Air and some terrible like Garuda or Aeroflot, and sort of wondered when my number might be up. Had a couple of aborted takeoffs, twice blown tires on landing (one in the Carribean where we were put up in a 5 star resort waiting for it to be fixed) and missed one flight that subsequently crashed on trying to land in a tropical rainstorm in Venezuela though no one was hurt. Sure saw some strange things though, like Aeroflot’s announcement that “this is a non-smoking flight, if you wish to smoke only do so in the lavatory”, along with “if your carry on bags won’t fit under your seat or overhead then please put them infront of the exit doors”. It truly is a very strange world out there.

      • Bruce

        My memory of flying into Kai Tak was back in 67. I was in the Air Force at the time based at Changi in Singapore.

        I had heard that the approach was something to remember, it certainly was. In non pilot terms it consisted of heading straight towards a checkered marker board painted on the side of a mountain & what seemed to be at the last moment turning 90 degrees right for the final approach to 13. I also remember looking UP at the apartments with there washing hanging from bamboo poles suspended out of the kitchen windows. This was an extremely effective way of drying your laundry (we used the same system in Singapore) It was always interesting to see what extra laundry had been acquired when washing accidently dropped down from apartments above you, or conversley, knocking on the door downstairs to retrieve your lost shorts.

        Ah, happy days!

        • Tony Baldo

          Bruce, did you frequent Kai Tak long enough to see the lighting system that was installed in (as I recall) 1970, that further helped planes negotiate the 47 degree right hand turn as part of the IGS 13 approach?

          I’ve also heard of both pilots and passengers being able to see people eating at their dinner tables and even being able to see the TV programs they were watching in their living rooms………and how the cockpit had an eerie orange glow at night from the street lights below, as the right hand turn commences (as I recall, not having flown the approach on FSX in nearlly 18 months) at approximately 600 feet MSL)!

          Sorry to continue this tangent away from the topic of discussion, but for me it’s a cool disembarkment thanks to a wonderful memory.

          • Bruce

            Hi Tony
            Returned to the UK in 68. I recall I think it was 3 flights into Kai Tak & all in daylight so no recollection of any special lighting.
            Yes, I can confirm that you could see into the rooms of the high rise apartments, a very strange experience.
            Just as exciting was one of our departures. The departure routing had to be stricly adhered to due to the close proximity of islands under the red flag (at the time Hong Kong was a British Protectorate) and more so if you were a military a/c. Anyway we were off on a sortie before returning to Singapore & were near to max all up weight. Our climb performance I suppose was nearly as good as the Bonanza (ha). The departure radar was nearly busting a blood vessel attempting to route us arround all the islands so as to not cause a diplomatic incident by over flying at 500ft

        • Muhammad Rahim

          Wow, you guys actually had the pleasure of flying into Kai Tak, awesome! I’ve seen footage of that approach on my ITVV video.

  • Allan


    I would fly with you any time. The people trying to bash you base their accusations on a ton of factors they have know way of proving – and even calling you a liar – it’s just too incredible. They certainly lack a proper conduct of communication and respect for other people. I’m shocked beyond belief.

    Now, you say if you flew the same takeoff today with your new-gained knowledge it would have been a non-event. So how should it be done differently? You said “There’s a much better way of doing short field takeoffs”. What is that better way?

    • Mark A


      Whatever the circumstances that lead to your predicament, you got out of it, so I say nicely handled.

      My first “Oh S**t” moment came in a C152 a few years back, and was similar to your own. I was taking off out of a grass strip with a shelter belt of trees on both sides and at each end. Acceleration was sluggish on account of the longer grass mid-field and once we got off and passed about 100ft, the rear-left quartering wind that the trees had been sheltering us from became VERY apparent. The airplane pure-and-simple stopped climbing, and those trees at the end did much the same as they did to you here. To top it off, the stall reed kept chirping every second or two as we burbled along in the turbulent flow from the trees. It was probably 10-15 seconds of level flight if that, but man did it feel like an eternity. It was 100% my fault too. In hindsight there were a bunch of clues that the wind was doing what it was. And all I did was stand by the plane before start up, and note which way the wind was blowing the grass at my feet.

      My second “Oh S**T” moment was a month or so back in a C172. Flying into my home city the tower cleared us over downtown on a right base. ATC advised us a helicopter was just lifting from a wharf below us and we were told to look out for him. I was midway thru landing checks but on a whim looked up and spotted him about 3 seconds later in my 2 o’clock, maybe 300ft away 20ft below and converging on us. I suspect he called the tower for liftoff AFTER he was airborne, rather than before. A big haul on the elevator and we cleared him, but only just. For a night or two I could close my eyes and see that red AS350 Squirrel filling my windshield!

      Still, it’s the close calls that give you an opportunity to really rethink your strategies in the future – I am now borderline obsessive about assessing the wind conditions out of sheltered strips, and you’d better believe my lookout has my head bobbing and weaving back and forth like a boxer on the defensive so I can see around the doorposts. Live and learn!

      Loving the website BTW, looking forward to the NGX sessions!

  • Storm Bear Williams

    I looked at the video several times and there seemed to be little crosswind component to take off. As the plane taxied to align on 25, you can see the trees on the left (this is before take-off) being blown around by the wind dramatically. On the right, you can see the windsocks and an American flag all showing the same wind direction. Yes, wind is full of turmoil and gusts, but the primary wind flow shows the aircraft was flying into a headwind.

    The one thing I haven’t seen on this thread, and admit I may have missed it, but what was the temperature and density altitude at the time of take-off?

  • Storm Bear Williams

    Also, isn’t that the stall horn blaring when the mike is open? If that is the case, certainly he couldn’t have pulled back any further to climb.

  • Josh Davis

    I had a similar incident coming out of a grass strip. I did a mediocre short field. I probably could have squeezed another 50 feet out of the starting end, and could have lowered the nose a little more during initial acceleration, but it wasn’t “bad”.

    What was bad was that neither of us calculated weight and balance nor take-off performance. No W&B before nor after because the instructor was certain all would be well. I didn’t consider it an issue because he has about 20x the number of hours I do. It was a warm, humid day, in TX. Density altitude was probably around 3000, but we were in a Cherokee 140, with full fuel -45 mins, and us.

    This was was the second time my weight vs my size was misleading to him. (I’m tall and have very muscular legs, and by body fat is well distributed, but still, fully clothed, I weigh 290lbs and my instructor about 145.

    My primary flight experience was in a DA40, and we’d have had great climb performance with lower airspeed in that.

    It taught me that no matter who I’m flying with, I don’t need to go into anything other than mile-long runways until I know for myself how the plane will perform, rather than relying on the experience of others, and that no matter how experienced someone is, I can’t trust a human mind to swag take off performance, especially when they’ve only flown with me a few times.

    • David Lamb

      Josh…no weight and balance? Ouch!

      The instructor should have been taken out and shot. Period, full stop. On a hot and humid day, I know (even as a sim pilot) that extra consideration must be given to proper pre-flight prep as the heat and humidity affect performance as much as would your weight. If you were flying an unfamiliar aircraft (as I perceive from reading your post), HE should have confirmed weight/balance/performance before ever getting in the airplane. My only other comment is one that supports yours; don’t simply trust the other guy because he has more time. Do the numbers yourself and then insist that he check them to confirm. As only a sim pilot, I am extremely wary of criticizing a real world pilot. However, in this case, this one is a no brainer. There is no excuse for following proper procedure. None…whether you are flying a 747-400 or a Piper Cub.

  • Eric W

    I just re-visited this thread as I recently discoverd the FSBreak podcasts and heard the episode about this moment. Chris, could you say something about the things you learnt out of this? I mean, there has been a considerable amount of postings regarding this situation, many of them on the Bonanzo Forum. What I can’t judge for myself is: would I take-off differently in the same situation?


    • Eric,
      I plan on doing a follow up post with it’s own reactions. That’ll come here soon.

      • gcompc

        Hey Chris,
        Fantastic post and it drew fantastic discussion which has helped me a lot. I don’t care what anyone says we all hide those most deadly moments away as a nightmare and don’t discuss them.

        I’ve done so in a couple of bad flying situations that were my fault and could of turned out to be tragedies. What a lot of people don’t seem to realize is that being involved in something like this and thinking about the events as they happen in slow motion in your mind there is no critic harder on you than yourself. You’ve already thought about how @#$% stupid you were and someone should kick you %^&* etc. and how could I of done this to my wife and kids. You definitely don’t need any help from the negative critics you’ve called yourself every name in the book a hundred times over.

        My point is you let us see the video and let us see you. It lets us see others’ nightmares, the fear goes away and we can discuss and learn. The armchair Nay Sayer will never do this because they feel they would be viewed less than perfect but fail to realize they would be viewed as human.

        Again great job Chris for being a real pilot that hopes others learn from any situation not just from the ego boosting adventures so many others just brag about.

  • Andreas

    Hello Chris,

    i do not know much about flying (i’m only a virtual pilot), but i think you manage the take off very well!
    So, i decided to try it my self in MS FSX – a tribute to you – – hope you like it!
    And thanks for Aviator90!!


    • Wow, thanks a million man! Great takeoff. Looked a little too familiar and scary, though. 😉

      Great job nonetheless.

    • Darrylacw579

      Hi chris. Your video is a great example of how we as pilots can learn, not neccessarily from our mistakes, but more from putting in to contect those performance diagrams and sentences that all relate to these sorts of affects which can really affect a pilot, on a particular day with the right conditions. I used to be a flight instructor (10 years experidnce) in england, where I have had my fair share of issues, however, none that relate to your type of performace downgrade, im guessing from factors associated with weight, temperature, humidity, wind, and more importantly, the RFI on a hot day. The RFI = Runway Friction Index would be high on a hot day, and as you would guess, the friction would also cause a contributing factor in these chain of events. Your initial reaction and timing was quick, and was a good decision to slightly make that turn to the left to avoid trees, so good decision and well executed. I think the lesson to be learned in all of this, and also for aspiring pilots, PPL pilots and / or any other pilot out there, is to always, always read that POH and factor in all these variables. I myself had a similar situation at a small (unmanned) airport in NW Florida, called KCDK – Cedar key. Be it an airport thats not high in ELV, however, a narrow runway, surrounded by marsh and tree’s makes for an interesting take off in hot, humid conditions. But to sum up, you did good, and your tail you can tell for many years to come as this is one story the odds were in your favour. Great video and great discussions above, which we can all learn from. Darryl Sheppard (former RAF Callsign: ACW579) EGOE / EGOS

  • Mike

    I liked the video. Got the link from a friend. Even tho I’ll never be in your situation of flying a real airplane, I do love the flight simulator. I appreciate your video sir as it helps me understand what you real pilots go through. My brother is studying to be a pilot at ERAU and I am trying to visualize what he is going through. I hear the stories about the dangers of flying from him so I’m sure he will be faced with some of these real-world situations and perhaps through videos like yours, he will be able to be as safe as you are. As I told him after a particular hairy flight, as sorry as I feel that he felt panic, I am glad he had the experience. He was able to feel the fear and therefore recognize that he doesn’t want to go there again. He needed to understand his limits and those of the aircraft and the environment he is in. I’m sure situations will come up again and take him off guard, but by this experience he’ll be that much more prepared. Keep sharing your experiences, you’ll help more than you probably know. By the way, you sound a lot like the guy on my 747 training videos for PMDG. A household signature sound! Perhaps not tho -just an observation. That guy’s name is Chris too. Thanks for your video and analysis- I’ll pass it onto my brother before his next flight block.

    • Flamin_Squirrel

      It concerns me that so many people don’t seem to understand the ramifications of using flap on takeoff. There is only one advantage to using flap on takeoff and that’s a a reduced ground roll. THATS IT. Flaps reduce your lift/drag ratio so once you’re off the ground flap will reduce both climb rate and angle.

      If you’re taking off from a short strip with no obstacles then flaps might be useful to ensure you get off the ground asap and the lack of climb rate isn’t an issue as you’ve nothing to hit. In any other scenario, flaps up for takeoff.

      • Graeme Smith

        So I am coming to this MONTHS late but what I don’t see in my quick skim through the comments is any mention of Density Altitude calculation for CONCRETE compared to the previous short field of the same length that you got off OK earlier in the day. And is that the clue? It is now LATER in the day and hotter (presumably) so even if everything else is the same – gross weight, pressure, field altitude, runway length – is the DA higher?

        I’ve recently been flying a new to me Cessna 150 and it feels pretty underpowered some days. I ended up working up a spreadsheet that does DA and performance for me on the fly and adds in a percentage for humidity which it calculates from the Temperature, Dew Point Temperature and Pressure. The DA is often higher than I first suspected and the roll is longer as a result.

        I then apply a simple rule of thumb. If the plane is not at 70% of Vr by the time it has used 50% of the calculated take off roll – ABORT the take off. This decision point is similar to that used in comnmercial aviation (See Ritchie Lengel’s Everything Explained of rthe Professional Pilot) for more on abort decisions.

  • David Lamb

    Hi Chris,
    My initial reaction to this video was, “What the … was he doing taking off with a tailwind?” Of course, after reading all of the above posts and watching the video about, say…12 times, I finally got a better picture of what was going on and even then, it’s not completely clear to me because of the camera angle.

    I’m not a real pilot, only a sim pilot, so I won’t make critical comments since I’ve been around airplanes for 30 years and have a commercial airline pilot for a brother-in-law…and have flown with him and understand that things happen very differently in the real world than in the sim.

    My observation is that a newbie pilot in that situation may not have fared as well. Experience is the best teacher and sometimes, even then, we get into situations in which it takes every bit of that experience to do the polar opposite (in this case, NOT pitch up when every other sense we have would tell us to pull up) of what we perceive of the situation. My initial perception was that the winds were swirling which presents the possibility of wind shear. It looked from the video that you had a reasonable climb rate on rotation, then the air fell out from under you as you got toward the end of the runway.

    So this raises a question: In that situation, would it have been possible (or even prudent) to hold the aircraft on the runway a few seconds longer to have the additional airspeed on rotation to compensate for the possibility of shear? My thinking here is that the extra altitude and speed would have given you a slightly larger margin when you hit the air pocket.

    I’ll be watching for the answer to this question and thanks for sharing. While it certainly was an Oh s…t moment, it’s actually those moments in which we learn valuable lessons and gain the experience necessary to deal with those situations when they occur again in the future (and in the real world – it will happen again).

    All the best and keep up the great work with the training videos!

    • Tom

      @David: holding the plane on the runway longer than the POH recommends wouldn’t give you more airspeed and altitude. It would give you more airspeed at rotation but less altitude at any given point along the runway and beyond. If he rotated before the recommended airspeed, then he should have waited longer, but not if he followed the POH procedure.

  • abc

    Just curious if you decided to check out the performance section of your POH/flight manual before you tried this.

  • Drew

    I’m a bit late I guess. I learned about your website via an interview you did with one of my aviation podcasts. I just wanted to THANK YOU for whatever it’s worth for sharing this video. I am 20yr sim pilot who finally found the means to enroll for my PPL only 3.1 hrs right now, long way to go but loving every minute of it and wish I’d done it a long time ago. Sharing experiences like yours is critical as far as I’m concerned and I appreciate your effort to make it available. I have alot of respect for you for stepping up and leaving the typical pilot Ego back on the ramp and helping educate. Might I ask what type you were flying? The video sounds like you had 2 passengers? Where you close to max weight? (only asking for my own education).

    Take Care,

  • Xorosho

    You did not do everything by the book, unless you took the trouble to calculate what weight you could safely take off with on that runway in those conditions. The manual is there for a reason. Most PPLs don’t know how to use it, and once in a while someone gets killed as a result.

  • Ben

    Hi, really interesting reading this article. I am currently hours building in the UK, and decided to fly my friends to the Isle of Wight a few weeks ago in a PA28 Warior. There were 4 of us in the aircraft, so I meticulously went through the mass and balance. We took off fine, and landed ok. There wasn’t a breath of wind on the island, so when I took off I had a choice of ends. I chose the end I landed at, even though there was now probably a 1kt tail wind. I figured I’d taken off ok, and was now lighter due to fuel. Half way through the take off run I realised I couldn’t stop before the end of the runway,and had stopped accelerating at around 45-50kts – a good 10kts short of where I needed to be. Thankfully I managed to get the aircraft into the air and keep it in ground effect, and the lack of drag meant we slowly sped up. We missed the trees at the end of the runway by around 30ft. I’ve never been so frightened in my life. I went back and checked all the maths, and the aircraft should have been able to make it as well.

    I guess this is why we have to built up experience.

  • Daniel Mcdaniels

    Ohh my good….sorry I did not read all post can you give me some information?

    Temperatur OAT?

    Man that was scary…

  • dotChuckles

    Hi Chris. Excellent job of controlling that situation and coming away from it wiser. I am 100% confident that had I been in the left seat I would have binned it into the trees. You displayed some excellent instincts there.

    Came to this after following links researching your 737NGX training. Downloaded Aviator 90 and have been going through that.

    I used to fly gliders about 15 years ago but due to ill health I was no longer able to continue with it. I’m loving Aviator 90 – a great mix of things that are familiar and new to me. I have always tried to fly as real world as possible in FS but lacked the training as glider ops is very different to powered ops I felt I was always missing something. Thanks to your product I am starting to recapture the feeling of real flight again.

    I will be purchasing Aviator Pro and the NGX training as soon as pay day lands!

    So now that you have had time to reflect on this incident, apart from perhaps not attempting the take-off, is there anything you would have done differently? Other then limitations, is there any other lessons I can take away from this?



  • Pilothamie

    Thanks GOD …. you made it.

  • Pilothamie

    Thanks GOD …. you made it.

  • Herman Nienhuis

    I think, that showing this is actually very brave and for me (former flying instructor) it proves that you’re a real aviator. We all make mistakes as you say, and this time you were lucky to walk away from it alive. Putting the video here is a great lesson for all of us.

    I wish, I would have a video of my own scariest moment. It was during the finish of a competition flight in the National Gliding Championships. I was just a couple of hundred meters away from the finish line, flying very low at maximum speed, and between me and the finish line there was a transmission line. All of a sudden, my right speed brake came out of the wing, making my plane totally asymmetrical and of course I immediately lost altitude.

    And just as you did, I reacted without thinking, from a mere instinct. I pulled up and opened the speed brakes myself, thus making the plane symmetrical again and then I could close them both. I still had enough margin to finish and land safely. I wasn’t the only one in terror, because all the people on the airfield had seen this (watching gliders finish is very spectacular) and all of them thought I would crash into the transmission line. But I walked away from it too.

    It turned out, that during maintenance the springs that should have kept the speedbrake in a locked position were not installed firmly enough and because of the very high speed and resulting underpressure over the wing, the right one got sucked out …

    Here’s a video of one of those finishes over the transmission line:


  • John

    G’day Chris!
    Just out of curiosity, did you use performance charts for this takeoff? What was the result if so?
    Regards John

  • John

    G’day Chris!
    Just out of curiosity, did you use performance charts for this takeoff? What was the result if so?
    Regards John

  • I think it’s great that you can own up to a mistake you’ve clearly learnt from, as everybody makes them. What I truly appreciate is that you can share them with others in the pilot community. I am a very new pilot in training myself and I’m just in the process of gaining my Private Pilots License; this blog and your video, the advice you give on what you’ve learnt, I’m certain will aid my in my flight training progress. I respect you for it and thank you; I won’t make this mistake. Thankfully you could walk away from it a better and more experienced pilot. Stay safe!

    • Thanks Hannah! At the end of the day, I had the choice to post it or not. I knew full well there would be a lot of backlash. But I knew it would be a lesson to others through me, as well. So I knew I had to post it. I learned so much during the process, and gained a lot of new knowledge I wouldn’t otherwise have. Best of luck with your PPL!

  • Chris

    Probably should have stuck a little lower to the runway to really take advantange of that ground effect to gain speed and climb over those trees buddy

  • Old short field pilot

    I don’t know what the density altitude was for your take-off, but regardless (to some extent) it appears that the technique you used was similar to a soft field take-off technique. Such a method can kept your aircraft near stall for quite a while. If you had dropped the noise to a level flight after getting airborne (kind of scary but –) you would have picked up more airspeed with which you could have climbed over the trees better.

    Additionally, a running turn to the takeoff direction would probably have been better (inertia-wise) than starting from a full stop. That is, you would have been going faster sooner.

  • steve46

    As a Pilot with more than 20 years flying experience, I could only describe you as an idiot !

    • Then describe what happened, if you’re so wise.

      You weren’t there, you don’t know what happened.

      Your experience alone won’t save you in a similar situation. Hopefully a bit of humility will.

  • Jeff Lathrom

    What was the temperature that day?
    Looks like a density altitude issue.

    • It was warm and windy. But the big issue is the terrain here. That’s what could have been the killer.

      • Rationalist

        No…the big issue was density altitude and weight…

        • Rationalist

          And aeronautical decision making…

  • Tim

    This would be why I have such a problem with the way that the FAA and many instructors teach short field operations. Knowing the WHY and then the HOW will allow you to change the HOW to fit the WHY. Clear and concise procedures, and a good amount of understanding and preparation, are key. Don’t push the envelope, and verify your bird will do what you expect in a safe and controlled environment, THEN go do it for real. I saw a lot of internal struggle between inaccurate instincts and training. I am glad it did not go bad. The good thing is you are learning from it, and not becoming cocky and adding it to your resume to prove you are awesome in the future. “The superior pilot uses his superior knowledge and judgment so that he will never have to use his superior skills” Blue skies

    PS, the maneuvers in the PTS are not the only maneuvers/techniques that exist.
    This is a decent starting reference.

    • One thing that really frustrated me during the whole process is I found out afterward that there are much better procedures for the Bonanza. But, because the Beechcraft Lawyers didn’t like the procedures, they took them out of the manuals. I saw guys take off on a 1500 foot grass strip, fully loaded, with trees on the other end, in a non-turbo Bonanza. Full flaps, leave the gear down, climb at 75 knots. I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it myself.

      I feel I did all I could in this situation, and some odd things crept up on me. Those winds at the end of that runway were very tricky. Taught me to really pay attention to surrounding terrain right near the airport. It can make a huge difference when you need it!

      • wither


        Terrain clearance procedures are sometimes not as well documented for some planes. If you fly a lot in mountainous terrain, you will find that some small changes to the published procedures will have very significant impacts on terrain clearance abilities during departure. You won’t find them usually in the POH, although they are easy, not radical, and merely require a bit of practice. The Bonanza can perform with the best heavier aircraft in the back country if one knows some of those simple tricks.

  • Heli Operations

    An interesting post, thanks for sharing. Here at Heli Operations we work closely with the world’s largest helicopter operators, predominantly in the maritime environment and Search and Rescue. We look forward to future posts and wish you and your readers all our very best.

  • Martin Fuller

    Good skills, maybe a few trees should be chopped beyond the runway.

    • MD

      Surely they should be removed? There is no need for them to be there – why make a short field even shorter? I had a similar experience in an underpowered model of the C172 on a grass strip – didn’t quite fly between the trees like Chris, but I definitely question it when I can see trees above me during the take-off run now! Safety first from now on in 😀

      • Good luck getting trees chopped down in a public spot like this ANYWHERE in the PNW. You’ll have some tree huggin’ hippies spiking your koolaid if you even think about it.

  • jetbluelover

    I’m glad you’re safe. But if you were doing things unconsciously, you weren’t flying at all. My instructor would probably hammer your head to pieces and ask you “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!”

    Not saying by any means that what you did was a complete idiocy, but that was poor judgement. You of all people, should know the risks. That was definitely a no-go situation. UNSAFE. What were the winds then? Just imagine this. What if the headwind suddenly died on you? You’d be all over the tree tops, or possibly, dead. NTSB will say outright: pilot error.

    Short fields are extremely dangerous. The terrain is not to blame. Hence why people asks you what were the conditions. Density altitude, and stuff. But alas, I’m just really glad you are safe. But please. If you’re teaching flight simulator kids the “right” way to fly, and you show them this, what would become of your credibility? The immature kid might get an idea — o yeah, I’ve seen this video before, I can probably do this in real life.

    I am glad you are safe.

    • Judging by your comment, I can tell that you have no desire to get to the bottom of what actually happened, nor did you read through some of the comments. I don’t mean any offense to that, but you weren’t there, and you didn’t know the conditions. So you can be the Monday Morning Quarterback and tell me I was an idiot, and that short fields are ‘extremely dangerous’, or you can take a deeper look into what actually happened and not be so quick to judge.

      I’ve gone over and over this video. It’s been years. I released it because it was a great lesson on many different levels. I did so to my own discredit, or humiliation, which I don’t feel either.

      Truth is, I did a great job with the situation that was presented me. I owe it all to my training and instincts.

      Oddly enough, it was also my training that was at fault here. FAA standards for short field takeoffs aren’t always correct, and this could have been a lot easier had I known that.

  • SandpiperAir

    Watching this video made me squeeeeze the cheeks! I did notice right as
    you lined up that the trees at the end of the runway seemed really high
    for a short field take-off. One would think that FAA requirements
    would be in place to address those hazards, especially considering that
    the air pocket you spoke of sounds like a regular occurrence.

    Glad you made it through ok.

    • Thanks. I can’t imagine the trees are against regulation. Otherwise, a chainsaw would have had a good workout long ago.

  • Andy

    VERY well handled by the Pilot in command after becoming airborne. Held max climb angle (just below the stall) and resisted that fatal urge to pull back. Just a word to all the ‘experts’ commenting. A short field is one where the field length is only just sufficient for the aircraft to become airborne and climb out clear of terrain above a minimum gradient (6% slope here in Australia in single piston). That means taking into account aircraft wt, slope, surface, temp, px, configuration etc. If you blindly state that the pilot is an ‘idiot’ for taking off at a ‘short’ runway with trees at the end, you no very little about performance or aviation in general. I have seen a Russian Antonov freighter try and depart a 3280 metre runway (over 10,700 ft) and make it by 50ft. I have seen an overpowered super cub get airborne in less than 50 feet and climb like a homesick angel. If the pilot did the sums correctly, and it was determined that he had enough runway length, then by DEFINITION it was long enough and he was acting in a sensible manner. If on the other hand the temp was higher, he had an unforseen tailwind etc, then any safety margin can be eroded (looks like the case here). In Australia our TODR needs to be factored by an extra 15% to account for these issues. If in the States you don’t add the factoring, it might be something to consider in future!

    I am an instructor with over 7,000 hrs teaching on various lighties and have operated out of many smaller strips. I say this only to any who might counter my argument as ‘unqualified’
    I have had a couple of moments like the one shown here. Not much fun, and It tends to cause you to amend your technique somewhat and add a little more if the day looks tricky with the wind.

    • Great comments. I can tell you’re sensible and I don’t question your experience as a result at all. You’re very much right.

      There were several things that could have helped this be ‘less scary’, but the big thing that was a variable outside of my control was simply the winds. The winds did really funny things with the trees and terrain right around rotation. What was a headwind, suddenly became a direct crosswind.

      That didn’t help!

      Thanks for your comments. Always something to learn, isn’t there?

  • dbansal

    Thank you for posting this. I am spoiled flying in Florida near sea level with minimal terrain, haven’t had to deal with this type of situation, helped me keep in mind what can go wrong should I ever head to higher elevations with obstacles like that. Pilots are usually great people, but are quick to be judgmental and act superior when people make mistakes, as all of us humans do from time to time. Under the circumstances I think you did well to keep your cool make the best of it. I don’t know if I would have had the guts to post that video in your shoes knowing how most pilots are, you’ve inspired me a bit in that regard.

    • Thanks, that means a lot. There were a lot of factors at play here. Although I don’t share much of them directly in this post, I do share them in the podcast on this topic. That basically has my final analysis.

      Lots of different things contributed to making this scary. It wasn’t one thing, like usual, but a lot of different items that took away my performance and made this more difficult than it should have been.

  • Ak aviator

    Alright this is by no means meant to attack your ability to fly an airplane, only to add some of my own personal insights. I have not read all of the posts below but I read enough to know that I don’t need to hear inexperienced pilots call you an idiot over and over. The fact is I don’t know the answer to that. This is just based on the video so it may be that I’m wrong. I would say that you rotated too early. A common mistake is thinking that the faster you get off the ground the better. This may be the case in some lower powered aircraft but with higher performance comes the ability to get airborne and hang on the prop. The problem is that you don’t have the power to hang on the prop out of ground effect. There have been instances where aircraft like helio courriers have taken off 4500′ runways, become airborne in the first few hundred feet only to crash into the trees 4000′ later because they couldn’t climb out of ground effect. And that’s one of the best short field planes out there. In the video it appears like there was still a lot of runway in front of you when you rotated. Based on that assumption I would wager that if the plane had remained on the ground a little longer the result would have been different. Just something to think about. Also as you have already noted learn your airplane. The best procedures are not always those in the book. Oh and 20 yrs of experience does not mean you are qualified to make a short field takeoff or call the guy that does an idiot. Anyway I guess the takeaway is to use the runway available and maybe go out and experiment with leaving the plane on the ground an extra second or two. Remember being on the back side of the power curve takes a lot of power to fly.

    • That was certainly a problem, you’re totally right. I feel that I could have stayed on the ground for a few seconds more, in hindsight.

      That said, I did as I was taught. Which is kind of unfortunate that the ‘taught’ was is not really correct! The old, ‘Lift off at X knots and climb at X knots for short field’.

      Right around rotation, to make things worse, the wind completely changed because of the terrain (trees) to the left. Took away a lot of that lift.

      Thanks for your great thoughts. Constructive, and I appreciate them.

  • Griff

    Chris – I tried to read most of the comments and did a search on them but couldn’t find my answer. so if I’m asking you to repeat yourself, I apologize.

    My question is what did the POH say was your groundroll and your 50′ obstacle clearance, given the conditions you faced that day? I only want to know because I base these types of go/no-go decisions on my POH and if you’re getting significantly different experiences, it’d be good to know. I’m sure the downdraft at the departure end contributed to your poor climb performance, and I don’t expect the POH to reflect that. Consistent below-book performance could also indicate a mis-rigged airframe or an engine that’s not producing rated power.

    If I’m looking at the correct airport, it’s 3W5 which has a 2609′ runway at ~270msl. Runway 25 has 44′ high trees 720′ from the departure end. So that’s roughly your standard 50′ obstacle 3330′ from where you started your takeoff roll.


  • bengazi

    Were you heavy? What was the temp? The DA?
    Because 2600 feet at a field elevation of 200 doesn’t sound like a very short field or unusually difficult conditions. This was no Idaho backwoods cliffside.
    Maybe it was the wrong bird for the task.
    It certainly looked like a questionable takeoff when all was said and done.
    I mean, you got through it alright, but with way too much tension for my tastes.
    What does your POH say about a 2600 ft field at 200 ft elevation- carrying 3 guys, was it? Can you generally come close to your POH numbers?
    I’d fly almost anything almost anywhere- if I can count on about 1.3 to 1.5 X the POH distances. I don’t want to have to be that good.

    • I’ve gone through a lot of this in the comments. It was so long ago (4 years), I don’t have access to the weather data anymore, or the POH.

      What I can say is that there were intangibles here. Wind shifted a LOT at rotation, I lost most of my lift, putting me behind the drag curve. Made it quite difficult.

      Shouldn’t have been this hard. Circumstances were just right.

  • Eduardo

    If I was the pilot I would go and cut all those pines with a chainsaw before taking off, no kidding, I am the extremely cautious kinda guy lol

    • Angle of Attack

      I’m sure the tree huggers would love that 😉

  • HighCFI

    Thanks for posting this Chris. I’m sure it was hard knowing that people were going to infer your an idiot, we all feel the pressures of makeing the go, no-go descions in flying. I think it’s important to learn from others mistakes and hopefully somewhere sometime a pilot faceing similar circumstances remembers this video and waits for cooler weather. A not so subtle reminder how quick aviation can turn ugly.

    • Angle of Attack

      I’m not sure cooler weather was the issue here. I’ve flown in high DA airports all my life. This wasn’t really high DA, in my mind. It had much more to do with wind, aircraft performance/configuration.

      Thanks for the great comment!

  • HerkGuy

    Hi Buddy, I have 2000hrs on C-130s so I know what operating out of tights strips involves. All I can say is well done – to the guy who says any one who does things instinctively is not flying all I can say is that if you don’t get to a point where you are doing some things instinctively then you should not be flying at all! It sounds like you were caught out by a number of factors and you’ve done they most important thing for any aviator to do – analyse your bad days and learn. Even more impressive is putting them out there for others to learn from. Fly safe!

    • Angle of Attack

      Thanks a million! That means a lot. I sure learned a lot from this situation. Most of them are lessons I couldn’t have learned unless it was out in the wild like this.

      Hoping someone else can learn something as well.

  • Mark

    That was a great piece of flying and contrasts so well with a crash I’ve seen on You Tube involving a Bonanza flying out of quite a high strip on a really hot day that ended very badly. I looked up Mears Field and whilst it appears to be fairly low (267 ft) hot weather, as we all know, can change that number quickly. Simply put you kept flying the aeroplane, maintaining speed and not panicking. You did lift off way to early with the runway remaining but short field technique tends to be taught that way..Get airborne and in theory your aeroplane will accelerate faster than on the ground. Not always true, though given the rapid change in conditions you experienced as you flew out there is a possibility the extra speed may not have helped if you were exposed to a small bit of what can only be described as wind shear as you tried to climb away. Thanks for posting it so we can all learn…

  • jimmbbo

    At the beginning of the video, the trees appear to indicate a strong gusting tailwind in excess of … Transport category ar

    • It’s a lot more complicated than that. I’d ask you to read back through the comments, and listen to the podcast. I’ve said the same things many times, and there’s a lot of information in here.

      Thanks for your input and thoughtful comment.

  • Jason-Craig Woolcock

    Good job keeping that level head. You had trouble climbing out because all of you started shitting bricks lol.
    On a good note though i am glad i saw this video, i am a student pilot with 20+ hours experience. Vidoe’s like this educate me more so i am less likely to make the wrong choices due to my lack of experience. Thanks for the upload

  • dany

    it looks, if you rotate too early..

  • Sarg400Battlefield

    WOW, nice job flying. I am new to the sport with only 5 hours. Thanks for posting this video with a detailed explanation. I learned a lot just following the post. I found the post by searching “I want to be a pilot, but am a little scared”, if this tells you anything about my concerns. Here is the ironic thing. I am 6’3′ 240, ex SF operator from the Navy and joint staff forces. I also, have 11 Muay Thai fights, 3 cage fights, and multiple BJJ competitions. I am revealing this about myself so establish an image for a guy who has become older and wiser, with more to loose. I have four kids, two being a recent set of twins. I really really want to fly, fear will not stop me. But I will admit, and it is very hard to do so, the thought of “ME” fatally injuring myself/others, leaving behind all my responsibilities, due to pilot error, lack of experience, poor decision making, arrogance, stupidity etc. is not except able to me. So having pilots post knowledge like this for me to read every night before bed, means a lot. Thanks again

    • I think if you’re approaching it from that perspective, you’re already very much ahead of the game. It’s guys that get on the flight deck thinking they’re hot stuff.

      Now, you’ve only got 5 hours. The truth is there will come a day and a time when you’ll feel like you know a thing or two, and you can take some risk.

      At the end of the day, flying is dangerous and it is risky. We shouldn’t lie to ourselves. But we don’t have to make it worse on ourselves.

      I’d highly suggest going and listening to the AviatorCast with Dr. Paul Craig. Really, you should do that.

      • Sarg400Battlefield

        Thanks Chris, I will check out the AviatorCast.

  • Kevin K

    Maybe I’m missing something, but the field doesn’t seem that short or that high? Well, 2600ft is short, but I wouldn’t think for a turbo’d Bonanza. Any idea what DA was that day? Either way, well done, and good discipline to hawk that airspeed instead of giving into the pull.

  • Reese Barnes

    Been there done that flying out of Gaston’s grass strip ( 3M0 ) in 100* July heat of the Ozarks. You’re right, it is terrifying. It’s most definitely a humbling experience to be full power, plane mushing along, stall horn chirping on and off as you try and nail Vx with trees still filling the windshield. Not fun.

    • myndset

      Yep same thing happened to me back in early 70’s. 100 deg. temp 3 people in a 172 only about an hours fuel burnt out of the tanks low time pilot . Density alt. around 9000 ft. no wind one way in and out. Believe me Jesus exists, or I would not be writing this..Definetly
      a brown trouser moment.

  • cloudflier

    Have to say, I’m reading this and nowhere do I see you mention what the takeoff-over 50-foot-obstacle distance was for the G36 you flew that day? That would be the first performance number I checked before going there, and the first thing I mentioned in this blog post. It would help other pilots viewing this to know what this performance number was for you that day. Looking at Bonanza’s G36 website and plane/pilot magazine’s figures for the G36, it looks like you were cutting it close to me.

    I did a couple low passes at this airport 3W5 today by the way … winds were similar although not as strong as what you posted, there definitely was some interesting air activity around the runway.

    • You flew in the sim you mean? Yeah, it’s pretty interesting. I was watching the raw footage today. I have a video of the landing, and on 4 separate occasions, you can see the windsock pointed down the runway.

      I don’t have number, because it was so long ago. It would be purely speculative.

      • Cloudflier

        I flew there in a high wing cessna in real life. Haven’t been back but I fly around that area a bit.

        You could track down a poh for your plane and approximate the weight that day … And get some 50′ obstacle clearance numbers that would have some value.

        Just saying. Would be helpful to other pilots to have some actual data here. Speculation about what happened May make a scary story but this isn’t helpful for other pilots following behind you.

        • You haven’t read through the comments or seen the follow up, then. There’s a ton of information here. And a LOT of things to learn.

          It should scare people. Crap happens. Did this have to happen? No, I’m not saying it did have to happen this way. But knowing the POH number now wouldn’t do us any good, as the lesson lies within something completely different.

          • Brian C.

            Exactly. I’m reminded of the line in the movie Apollo 13 when Gene Kranz is talking to ‘the Grumman guys’ about the LEM motor. “I don’t care what something was DESIGNED to do, I wanna know what it CAN do!” Aircraft get older, and performance changes. It’s a fact of life. They’re not going to perform exactly by what the numbers say just ‘Because the numbers!’ And maybe there was something slightly different about the Bonanza that day that you didn’t know. This spark plug, that spark plug wire, whatever.

            My point is, you have to know what your aircraft is really going to do. As I pursue my PPL, this is something I’ve been learning. You have to be familiar with how your aircraft performs. And, to me, flying the real thing is actually much easier than flying in the simulator. Although there are many addons for both X-Plane and FSX, none of them seem to be 100% accurate in terms of aircraft performance, although they come very close in many aspects. I’ve had to learn to ‘fly the plane I’m in, not the one I’m familiar with,’ as it were. I think having this adaptability will actually be beneficial if I decide to make a career of it.

            Chris, thanks so much for sharing this video. It’s easy, especially for new pilots like me, to think, ‘It’ll never happen to me.’ But the fact is, it can happen to you, and it will happen to you. So, be prepared and equip yourself with the tools you’ll need when it does happen.

          • Yeah, totally agreed. Good writeup here. We can always know our aircraft better than just the surface level and normal operation stuff. That is the mark of a true aviator.

  • Carl Sciberras

    well done for your honesty in showing the video and account of the situation to the world to help everyone become a better pilot

    • Thanks. Good to get a comment like this here and there 😉

  • Tiffany McLain

    Thank you so much for sharing this!!

  • Jeeprex

    Growing up in Concrete, I flew in/out of that airport quite a bit. I’ve been in/out of that airport in much larger aircraft. I know that end of the runway has claimed more than a couple of planes. Most recently at the Fly-In, a Stearman trimmed one of the trees at the West end while on landing. Fixable, but costly.

    • No kidding?! Wow. I can imagine. And with training and knowledge of the area, I can also see it being a non-issue. There are a few key things I’d do different if given the opportunity to do something similar again.

  • dmwehlmann

    Thank you very much for posting your experience! As aviators we learn from others mistakes.

    • Glad you can learn from it! That’s why I posted it!

  • Mike

    I just found your site and happy I did. Great job on getting over/through those trees. I am a 2000 hour a-36 turbo normalized pilot. Good advice on full flaps and keeping gear down. Only way I found out about this is word of mouth. It’s the only way at high density and short field with full load. Thanks for sharing. Mike

    • Thanks for confirming. And yeah, obviously I found out by word of mouth as well. Wish I would have known before. Put a bad taste in my mouth on what was one of the last flights with the G-36 for me.

      But, now with some time behind me, all I have are fond memories of the machine.

  • Tim

    Looks like a tail wind. It is not more complicated than that. Wind is just as important as runway length.

    • And this is where you don’t know what you’re talking about. You weren’t there. The landing video (I reviewed it) clearly shows a headwind. You and many others keep thinking it’s a tailwind. Think that, and you’ll miss some lifesaving lessons here. Remain ignorant at your own peril.

    • John

      At about 1:17 you can see the sock on the right side of the runway..looks like a headwind.

      • Yes .. it really looks like a headwind

  • tim

    At the very start of video during the ground roll where Chris is executing a 180 turn at the runway threshold to line-up for take-off, one can CLEARLY see the trees bending in a way that indicates Chris would take off into at least 10 knots of head wind. Anybody arguing a different point is not paying attention to the clues.

    I will also say that I learned a LOT from Chris’s podcast, most notably the surprising input that Chris should have left the landing gear down during the initial climb-out. I’m chewing on the lift profiles and aerodynamics of that thought.

    The take-away message I hear from Chris is that he now believes that the take-off plan in question might have benefited from staying planted on the runway to gain an additional 5 knots or so of airspeed before beginning the climb-out. As it looks from the video, the plane appeared to be on the backside of the power curve. Bottom line is that it appears that ground-effect saved the day.

  • Jay W

    It looks before you got to the trees, the ground dropped off after the end of the runway. I read an old research article from the 70’s looking at changing winds near the surface, in particular over changing elevations near the ground. With a headwind, you would think the updraft as the headwind hit that slope would give you a bit more lift. Instead, the opposite happens–the headwind slows as it hits that slope, and the lift you lose from the decreased headwind outweighs the lift you gain from the updraft. In addition, you suddenly lost the ground effect you had over the runway as the ground dropped away.

    The upshot is you lost a lot of your climb with the ground dropping away at the end of the runway, more so than you might have expected with the loss of ground effect.

  • Vincent Smith

    I had a very similar situation at a short runway in Mississippi. I was in a Cessna 172 with about 2.5 hours of gas flown off, and 4 adult passengers well under gross weight. It was a warm day but we were close to sea level it was not a takeoff it was a go around due to a botched approach and wake vortex from a helicopter. I started my radio calls at 10 miles out. No contact until i was over mid field. I was planning a straight in approach but the airport info said Rc planes used the runway so i overflew at 2,500 ft. There was an army helo on the field engines running. As i passed mid field he acknowledged me and said he was departing shortly to the north. I descended into the downwind and extended it about 5 miles to give the helo time to depart, turned base and he was still there. so i did 2 360’s and watched him depart. I was high and long on final, it was breezy and gusty and the approach was too fast. i should have aborted went around and set up again. on short final I was ok just a bit fast by 10 knots or so still a bit high. As i crossed the numbers full flaps i knew i was gonna float a bit before touchdown and it was kind of a short runway but still long enough to stop. as i reached the area where the helicopter had been hovering prior to takeoff, i hit his rotor wash and it pushed the nose up and moved the plane off the concrete over the grass apron. The stall horn beeped and i pushed the nose down, and added full power for a go around. The end of the runway had trees and powerlines 50 to 60 feet. with full flaps climb performance sucked but i dare not take out flaps, and if i put any back pressure on the stick the stall horn sounded i knew i had to lower the nose for airspeed. and as i watched the trees and powerlines get closer it took every ounce of will power to lower the nose and add airspeed to increase lift. I cleared the trees and power lines by less than 6 inches i thought the gear were gonna hit lines for sure. Like you say hard way to learn a lesson. your video brought that all back same visual

  • Matt Smith

    Thanks for the discussion, was thinking just today how flying is the safest way of traveling, unless something like this happens, and then the odds against safety increases dramatically. Like they say hours and hours of boredom, most pilots won’t have an event that changes this, but if it does, that’s when you find out who was truly a good pilot in that situation. Simulators with built in events are a good thing.

  • Lou

    First of all I would like to compliment you on your site and video. Now to the point, your instructors did a fine job making you realize that its important to know your airplanes performance and limitations. As a FAA Certified Airplane instructor, I make it a must that my students know, understand and perform takeoff and landing distances through the use of the manufactures performance charts using several variables like temperature, wind and runway conditions. Keep up the good work.

  • Michael Twitsucks

    I think you handled yourself brilliantly.

    In fact, the only thing I think to blame here is that airfield having those damn trees THAT call right at the edge of the runway. WHY THE HELL didn’t they cut them down?

    • Because it’s Washington State 😉 Plenty of tree lovers there.

  • Kat

    I was watching this, and figuring out what was going to happen, was waiting for you to pull up.

    I’m not a pilot, and I still know you don’t pull up in that situation. I’d have pulled up, lol. I don’t have to be nearly as terrified as you were to have been in that situation, but I can still feel the fear of being in your shoes during that moment. You’re very lucky to have beaten the odds on that one.

    • Yeah, I was certainly “flying the feathered edge”. Didn’t have margin for error, especially reducing my lift.

  • Tom Seim

    You technically killed yourself on this flight (you did not clear the obstacle). The short answer is having zero margin for error. The long answer involves a lot of factors, many covered here:
    I remember watching a video shot at Big Bear, CA involving a Cessna 210 where they compared the book numbers to actual. They never even came close to the performance that the POH said they had. The reason is pretty simple: the POH tables were developed using a brand new aircraft, engine and propeller flown by highly experienced test pilot. Other things that are easy to ignore (at low altitude airports) is actual density altitude. The bottom line is if you are depending upon the aircraft performing precisely as the POH says it will you stand a very good chance of killing yourself and everyone else on board. Food for thought…

    • Thanks for the feedback. I think you’ll find a lot more information in the comments as well. This isn’t entirely a ‘by the book’ takeoff. A lot of other circumstances contributed to the issues here, namely wind-sheer based on terrain. You can imagine that after all these years (this happened in 2010) I get tired of defending myself. Hope all learn something.

  • diagno dent

    Great video. I really impressed the way you have handle the worst situation.

  • Aaron Michael Fiss

    I’ve been instructing for just about two years now & I’ve used this video for almost all of my discussions about performance calculations. I’ve just never made it to the comment section here. I have primarily shown this as a “what not to” scenario (not meant to be demeaning, more as a learning opportunity since you lived to tell the tale). In Cessna products the ability to add safety buffers is very easy – use max gross performance, regardless of actual weight, use the next higher pressure altitude & temperature (instead of interpolating), and of course add the infamous 50%. The reason for that is plain & simple – to mitigate risk. As private pilots (instrument rated or not), it’s just not worth going into strips that short (I know it’s tempting to take the challenge but not without being paid for it). In my opinion, excluding emergency circumstances it shouldn’t be necessary to utilize a short field technique due to the inherent risk involved.

    • Thanks for the comments, Aaron. I hope it’s useful for your students. Please also remember that there were circumstances out of my control here, and this is just as much a lesson in ‘keeping a cool head’ as it is in ‘performance planning. Simply teaching a ‘what not to do’ isn’t the best tactic, in my eyes.

      And as for flying into short strips- flying is an adventure. Some day, many of your pilots will probably fly into strips like this. They may as well learn to do it.

  • Kelvin Mims

    As an old pilot I’ve done plenty of exciting maintenance ferry flights and can relate to how you must have felt. Experience is acquired, not learned from manuals. When it’s not climbing and it should’ve been, and landing wasn’t an option. Your slow flight training and discipline kicked in and saved the day. Maneuvering through trees and all while cleaning up. Well done!

    • Thanks. Seems I’ve been trying to explain this to others, over and over. Maybe there are a lot of couch flyers that don’t really get it. What I do know is that things were supposed to go one way, they went another, and I was sure glad I had some training and experience to help me out.

  • W Wilson

    I thought you were in a Cessna for a second and still thought the wing clearance over that tree on the left was close – Then I realised it was a Bonanza. You might have just skimmed the top of it. You obviously have a true instinct for flying as to subconsciously pitch down and aim for that gap. Great job!!
    Dear Lord, please don’t let me fck up,
    I didn’t quite copy that – Say again please,
    I said everything is A OK! ;D

    • Pretty wild. And yes, similar words were going through my head. Crazy situation!

  • E Nagel

    Chris, did I read it right, it is a full flaps takeoff ? What Bonanza is it ? I have an F33A and I use 15° of flaps, not more. Full flaps do add a lot of drag, so I was wondering ?

    • If it were flaps, I think it would have been a better situation. I eventually learned from others through comments, others that fly Bonanzas, that the correct procedure is full flaps, gear stays down.

      Like you said, this shouldn’t have been an issue at all… performance was all there.

      The largest contributing factor was in fact the terrain features and the wind. Namely, you’ll see a ‘channel’ of trees up until the midway point of the runway, where I lifted off. The trees on the left ‘break’ and wind can come from the left.

      So right at liftoff, what was a great headwind turned into almost a direct crosswind, and killed my performance.

      This was also verified by watching the landing video. When I hit that midpoint in the landing video, I got a wind sheer that actually shifted the camera on the dash.

      Really should have thought more about the events of the landing and how it would effect takeoff.

  • Les Wiles

    Do you think in hindsight retracting the gear had a positive or negative performance impact in your aircraft’s vertical flight path?

    • Negative, but only because that’s what I learned after the fact. Training usually tells you to pull up the gear and get rid of the drag. Makes sense, right? Bonanza guys taught me through various comments that it HURTS the Bonanzas performance to do so, and shouldn’t be done.

      • Scott Moseley

        Hard to imagine that being true.. would love to know the physics behind that. If its true for a Bonanza would it hold true for other craft?..say a Piper Seminole or a Boeing 777 ?

      • John Holmes

        Your instincts are/were correct. The decrease in drag would have undoubtedly meant better clearance. If you haven’t already, go and prove it for yourself. Have a friend on the ground take pictures, simulating these conditions, and this will erase any doubts. Oh–and use no more than 10 degrees of flap.

  • Björn Lillpers

    I had something very similar happening yesterday. I had to go around late due to floating too far down the runway. There was a low Hill with threes on it Beyond the field. I was absolutely sure I would hit the trees for several seconds before finally getting some speed and pulling up. Absolute terror, still feeling really bad when I think about it. By far the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced.

  • Dave Scott

    Could you pull the exhaust system off you plane and check it for an obstruction in the muffler. A broken weld internally in the muffler can cause the engine to produce low power.

    • Angle of Attack

      Nope, not the issue. Much more at work here.

    • Angle of Attack

      In other words, it wasn’t the airplanes fault. It was my fault, either by poor training or poor technique, or a combination of the two.

  • Dacpilot

    I fly from this field all the time. and depending on the time of year and day will vary the local temps and wind considerably. Taking off from a field like this is not for the guy who’s afraid to keep the nose down and keep his airspeed up. I assume your taking off to the west. There is a very large Hill just off the center line and about 3/4 to a mile away on the left. The winds (not air pockets / that’s layman’s speech for down draft) are very strong mid afternoon and mostly from the west. That large hill off to the left produces some very nasty mechanical turbulence. I’ve departed this field in a straight tail 150 with a passenger and 3/4 tanks, purposely held the runway until the plane wants to fly, just don’t rotate because the airspeed says so. at lift off trim and hold ground effect all the way to the end of the runway, plus just enough to clear any obstacles, at that point upon clearing the metal whacking wood things (trees) keep the nose low and let your airspeed build (There is a sizeable drop off at the west end of the field). Airspeed is just as good as altitude depending on the situation. Make a slight turn to the right to get distance between you and that big hill with the bad breath rolling down and around its north side. Farther north of that beasty the better. Trying to maintain your altitude in a descending mountain wave (or big hill in this case) in a small plane is just not going to work. If you think about it the descending air cant go under ground, Right. Its best to get as close to the edge or out of the worst of the condition as possible, as the air moves closer to the surface the downward movement lessens and then moves parallel to the surface and instead of climbing a ladder your in effect walking up a stairway. If you remain near the centroid of this phenomenon the decending air could talk you right to the ground or worse. Now granted the airplane has to cooperate as well like not quit or break or some other bad stuff. If your not familiar with mountain flying I suggest reading a book on the subject. I’ve warned other pilots with little experience with the topic of mountain flying and density altitude, only to be notified later that they did not treat it seriously and bit the big one, some survived and lost their aircraft, a few weren’t so luck and lost everything. Best to know your abilities and that of the aircraft and the conditions that your operating in. As for this new “lets put an Angle of Attack gauge in the planes now, especially small aircraft is foolish, If you flying in a descending wave say in the Rockies somewhere, and your angle of attack gizmo shows that your at your maximum angle of the dangle, and your VSI is still going the wrong way, just look for the patch of ground that keeps getting bigger, cause that’s where Search and Rescue will find You.

    • Angle of Attack

      Yeah, your assessment is pretty spot on, and what I’ve been saying all along. There was more here than “Density Altitude”. It wasn’t that, but rather the mechanical turbulence coming up from the river and/or over that hill. Those were things I didn’t consider at the time.

      Your advice to stay on the runway until she’s ready to fly is also correct, but that’s not what they teach you in ‘school’. There it’s “rotate at X knots” for shot field ops. So, we all have areas we can improve in.

      Since this time I’ve moved to Alaska and have become much more familiar with this type of operation. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what the geographic features could do.

      All around, good comments. You seem like a thoughtful guy and have some good things to stay. I appreciate that. Can’t say that for all comments.

      • Donna Kennady

        Thanks for sharing. I’m a low hour pilot and have just bought a turbo-normalized Bonanza G36. Does the plane in this video have a normally aspirated engine and do you think it would make a difference? I’m also curious if now that you’re in Alaska have you had a chance to use the suggested “full flap and landing gear down” for short field take-offs?? Do you recommend it?

        Don’t worry. I don’t plan on attempting anything like this for a while, but am collecting all the knowledge from others that I can to keep myself safe and out Of the trees. 😃

  • GearupAPcoffee

    Chris, I would like to impart some wisdom on you based on surviving 12,000 hours of mountain flying.
    First of all, your comment “that the correct procedure is full flaps, gear stays down” is NOT a correct procedure. In fact, it’s not any kind of procedure. There is NO performance data for a full flap takeoff in the Bonanza POH.
    There is no approved full flap takeoff procedure of any kind for the Bonanza. Your NTSB report would be an easy one for the investigators.
    Beech says full power and lean (if norm-asp) prior to brake release. The handbook gives you takeoff performance for 0 and app flaps ONLY. Where are the numbers for a full flap/gear down take off roll and climb?
    The POH also says when you achieve positive rate-put the gear up. It doesn’t say anything about leaving the gear down on a short-field takeoff.
    I have witnessed many accidents in my career. ALL of them could have been avoided.
    ALWAYS fly the plane by it’s book. Leave the test flights to the factory guys.
    ANYTIME you stray from the handbook, you become a test pilot.

    • Angle of Attack

      I did fly the airplane by the book, that’s the problem. If you dig into the comments here, you’ll see that some old-time Bonanza flyers contradicted my original thought of doing it BY THE POH AND FAA TRAINING. As you know, that’s not always the most up to date or correct information. I was so skeptical of this that I actually called them out on it, but they showed me the results, the data, and I was convinced. It was in the POH at one time but the Beech lawyers took it out. So yeah… there’s more to this story.

      • gearupAPcoffee

        Chris, I watched your video several times again, and listened to you podcast. The mystery to your takeoff has been solved with your own words. A few times during your podcast, you said you rotated too early. And, you also said you over-rotated.

        This put you airborne on the backside of the power curve (Region of Reversed Command). What saved you, was your ability to stay in control and in the upper part of ground effect. Fortunately, by the time you reached the end of the runway, you had enough airspeed to survive without ground effect.

        Steve Wozniak did the same thing in 1981 with his shiny new Bonanza full of people. Although everyone survived, the aftermath of his early rotation was not as pleasant as yours.

        The POH and your training are not at fault here. And no, you didn’t fly it “by the book”. The book does not say to “rotate early”. Also, I’m assuming you weren’t trained to rotate early.

        To put it blunt…… since there was nothing wrong with the airplane, this was nothing more than pilot error.

        As for this full flap take-off nonsense. (You’re right, there is more to the story)

        The reason Beech removed flap takeoffs from the V35 and “Deb” series is because a flap departure stall can result in an “over the top” spin. Let me explain..

        As you know, GA manufacturers intentionally design their wings so the inboard root section stalls before the wing tips. This allows for the separation of airflow at the root “turbulence” to “buffet” the tail and warn the pilot of impeding full wing stall. Because the tips are still flying, the pilot still has some lift and control.

        Beech realized through test flights, a departure stall with flaps will delay the inboard stall until AFTER the tips have stalled. Hence, no buffet warning over the tail. The tips stall, and the engine forces put the the plane into a spin with no way to recover. Apparently, Beech has determined a departure stall in the 36 with approach flaps will still stall at the root first and produce a buffet. But, a full flap takeoff is not approved.

        So, these hot dogs that are blowing off the POH and doing their full flap takeoffs are probably unaware that a stall will mean almost certain death. Once again, once you operate outside of the POH, you become a test pilot.

        Just a suggestion…instead of blaming the POH, Beech, and your training, just realize you rotated too soon (your own admission), learn from it, and put this to rest. Every pilot makes mistakes. We just hope they don’t kill us while we learn from them.

        On a bright note…your CFI should be commended for instilling in you not to force a climb out of a plane that doesn’t have it in it. You were ready to “ride it out” in a controlled crash. Excellent..

        The only thing I would recommend is to have your right-seater get ready to crack the door before impact. I witnessed a high DA accident once where the occupants survived the crash, only to burn alive because they couldn’t open the jammed door.

        Good luck with your flying, and I hope you enjoy it for a lifetime as I have..

    • gearupAPcoffee

      I see you disabled my account with you. I’m just trying to help you. I have some information that may save your life someday.

      Oh well. Good luck.

      • gearupAPcoffee

        My apologies. I thought I had registered you with you in order to post, and it wouldn’t let me log on. I must have originally posted as a guest.

        I’ll be back later to share some more info with you.

        • As a pilot you also know that every planes POH prescribes different flap levels for STOL conditions. There are a lot of 0 flaps at TO and ST planes out there.

  • JPalm

    So, what was the biggest lesson for me?
    You have a wife and kids. Your hobby shouldn’t cheat them of you

    • Angle of Attack

      Huh? Maybe you should try and learn something else along the way. Could save your life.

  • mj

    “While I was up there I wanted to see several places that I had come to enjoy in Flight Simulator, one being an airfield scenery accurately depicted by ORBX. This place is called ‘Concrete‘.”

    Alarms should go up in everyone’s head when you say that you want to visit places that you have seen in a Flight Simulator… Remember flight simulators are a SIMULATION with major limitations. Home Use simulators are generally not high fidelity and do not simulate atmospheric conditions accurately.

    Chances are the aircraft performance on a home simulator will be very optimistic. Some home simulators will let you “tune” the aircraft parameters (engine horse power, drag) so you might be able to match your aircraft performance but this would take a fair amount of effort and testing

    Home Simulators are a good training tool for procedural training (ie flying approaches, holding patterns, etc).

    I am assuming that the reference to retracting the landing causing an increase in drag (decrease in performance) comes from the fact the the A36 bonanza gear doors have to open (thus creating more drag) before the landing gear retracts. Remember that the increase in drag is only when the gear doors are open afterward, when the gear is up, drag reduces and performance increases. How long are the gear doors open on the Bonanza. In addition, depending on the field performance testing methods, if the POH says to retract the gear after lift off, then the book numbers would include the additional drag. Of course the book numbers may be calculated based on a new aircraft with perfect technique. The book may not account for decrease in efficiency due to dings in the prop from rocks, lower cylinder compression on older engines and certainty it doesn’t take into account not being aligned with the center line until after brake release…

    To answer JPalm’s question the biggest lesson should be to leave the zero margin flying in the simulator, always give yourself plenty of margin in real life, and unless the manufacture1 gives you different advice, follow the POH.

  • smitty195

    Wow! I just finished watching the video and reading the transcript and checking out most of what is here. I’m so glad that you decided to share this with everyone. THANK YOU for doing that. I am positive that you have saved someone’s life here without knowing it. So many valuable lessons, and I guess I have to admit (as a VERY LOW-HOUR private pilot myself) that I have never thought about what could actually happen in “real life” versus what I have been taught to do based upon the POH and basic flying rules. I guess I assumed that if the C-172 POH says it can do “x”, then it can do “x”. But someone mentioned that the airplanes we fly are usually rentals that are at least 10 years old. Just like a car—-that 10 year old engine is not going to be at its peak if it’s been in a rental fleet at Hertz all that time!

    So I just wanted to say thank you. I think it took balls to show the world what happened. But by doing so, I am absolutely certain that a life (or lives) have been saved. I cringed when I heard the stall warning horn going off right after rotation. I thought for sure I was going to see a crash into the trees.

    Have you ever flown into TVL? (Lake Tahoe Airport) They have things like this happen quite frequently there. There’s a sign near the run-up area before you get to the runway, at both ends, that says in big letters: “CHECK DENSITY ALTITUDE!!!”. I was surprised to see a reminder like that because pilots should know this for an airport that sits at 6,200 feet in the Sierra Nevada mountains. But now I understand why even more.

    Thank you again for putting all of this information out there for us to see!

    • Angle of Attack

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, I considered NOT sharing this, but when I knew others could learn from it, I had to. That’s the kind of pilot I am. Not too much ego. I recognize I’m imperfect and flawed.

      Density Altitude was something I’m familiar with, because at the time I was flying out of Salt Lake City, and traveling to many different airports in the region. Just like many pilots that run into Density Altitude issues, it usually happens at an airport you’ve never been to while traveling. That’s why you see it at TVL. That’s not for local pilots, that’s for visiting pilots.

      Glad to see you have an attitude of learning. There’s a ton to learn here. I also did a podcast about this at Worth seeing.

      • Jeff Brooke

        +1 on the thanks for sharing Chris. I’ve been following the podcast a while now, but somehow this skipped me by – I just saw it on YT and thought ‘I know that voice!’

        Sorry about all the Sunday morning quarterbacks and deskpilots commenting here… just makes me think of what my father said to me when I was learning to drive “Anyone who tells you they never stall the car either drives an automatic or doesn’t drive at all”.

        It takes such humility to share something like this, I can’t even imagine (I only have 18 hours). But you’ve learnt a lot from it, we’ve all learned from it, and I have to think even the people who don’t fly and are giving you grief about it… well they’re here, they like aviation, maybe one day they will become pilots, and they’ll be out at a strip somewhere crunching the numbers and think to themselves “you know what, I saw this video one time…. let’s not”.

        All the best Chirs!

        • Angle of Attack

          I’m glad you see it so clearly! We are all in this to improve, learn from each other and be better pilots for it. If we don’t, then we end up learning from each other anyway through accident reports. When this happened I knew I had an obligation to share it.

          Keep up the training and never give up on your dream! You’ll face setbacks and hardships, but you’ll get there. Throttle On!

      • Evan Timm

        My best guess is that the temp readings you did your calculations with were a little low compared with the air just above the sun baked runway. Its a classic short field error as I’ve heard. No experience in the area myself as I’m a rotory wing student.

  • BN

    Here is my comment from a very old pilot that has been close a few times. If you fly the way the POH says to fly and use good data you can still pucker when it gets a little too close. If you stray from the POH and it is way too close the pucker factor is a lot bigger. I was not in the aircraft and could not see the Airspeed indicator, but I did hear what sounded like the stall warning. If that was the case you most likely were too slow and below Vx. To get the best performance you need to very accurately fly the correct speed. Also the takeoff data chart does not have any input for downdrafts and you most likely have no way of knowing if there are any either. You most likely might have done a little better if you did not lift off until Vx and flown Vx as close as possible.

    But as a weekend pilot flying for fun the better choice would be wait until it is cooler later in the day or next morning or better headwind. I also would have min fuel to get to a fuel refill point.

    Very fortunate for you and the others on the airplane that there was a low spot in the trees. Otherwise we most likely would be commenting on a fatal aircraft crash cockpit video. I thank you for having the nerve to post this and say you screwed up so someone else might learn something that keeps them out of the trees.

    Just remember this give your self some extra reserve for everything. If you have a fuel reserve so you do not run out of gas what is the logic of having no takeoff performance reserve? It is not likely you will run out of gas if you crash into the trees at the end of the runway. I am sure you learned a lesson that will possibly help you become a very old pilot too. 🙂

  • John Collins


    I have seen this video some time ago. Without knowing what your GW was at takeoff, I am reluctant to comment, but here goes. The G36 has a maximum certified GW of 3650 pounds, but with the TAT STC for Turbonormalizing, it is increased to 4000 pounds. The G36 that I have flown in are useful load challenged, some with only about 950 pounds available for fuel and passengers. So with three adult males, it is easy to be at or above 3650 pounds with full fuel of 444 pounds (without tips), especially if the aircraft is equipped with an AC. The G36 manual covers takeoff with and without flaps, but not at a GW above 3650 pounds. AFAIK, there are no performance charts for the turbonormalized version and the ones in the POH indicate that the takeoff values have to be corrected by increasing takeoff distances of 6%. Although the G36TN will provide better performance at altitude than the NA G36, it is my experience that at or near sea level, it is not as peppy.

    I also note the ba-beep beep from the stall warning on rotation or gusty conditions, but I don’t believe the aircraft at full power is actually near a stall, at least at the 3650 Max GW. The Bonanza models have a much slower Vx and Vy with the gear and flaps down than the published values for the clean configuration. So one of the more common issues is accelerating to too high of an airspeed until the aircraft is cleaned up. Typically the published balked landing speed (80 Kts) in the G36 is roughly Vy for gear and flaps down, This is 20 Kts lower than the book Vy of 100 Kts. Vx and Vy used to be published for clean, gear down, and gear and flaps down
    configurations in the older Owner’s Manual, but now it is omitted.

    Trying to climb at the book Vy in the gear down or gear and flap down configuration, is anemic at best and may not result in any climb. At max GW, the G36 will stall near +16 or 17 degrees pitch up, so I teach to set initial pitch of +10 to +12 and hold that pitch to clearing the obstacle. The airplane will accelerate and climb quite nicely in this attitude. Approach flaps help and reduce the ground roll and initial climb. Leaving the gear down also helps for a close in obstacle because as the gear cycles, the inner gear doors open fully and increase drag until the gear is in the wheel wells. The higher drag, particularly with higher speeds is not helpful at all. The good thing about the G36 is that the gear retraction is fast, usually under 5 seconds, but then the aircraft has to accelerate to Vy and this will take time and distance.

    Operations at higher weights, although approved are not as good and there is no data available for them, at least that I am aware of.

  • Bruce Smith

    Hi Chris,
    let me firstly state that I don’t have a pilots licence and haven’t a clue about how to fly a plane, the following is just a suggestion.
    Why are we all talking about what went wrong and why are we risking our lives when taking off and landing on short length runways.
    Wouldn’t it be better to just make these types of runways longer and safer in otherways. Now I know you are going to say that the cost would not allow this or there is no room to do this, but who cares about that, just do it, where there is a will, there’s always a way.
    It drives me crazy that we allow such a thin line to exist between live and death when it can be made totally safe.

    • SamKnows

      Reasons for “short” fields: 1. Terrain only allows so much length. 2. Some planes don’t need as much runway length as others. 3. Everything in aviation is compromise. 4. Who will pay for longer runways? 5. Nothing is ever totally safe.

  • SamKnows

    Airport data: K3W5 Mears Field Airport, Concrete, Washington on Skagit River flowing west.

    Elevation 267’ Runway 25 length 2609’ x 60 ‘ hard surfaced, Gradient: 0.1% down(?) Obstructions: 44 ft. trees, 720 ft. From runway, 11:1 slope to clear, infrequently used road at 0 ft.
    I had one of these takeoffs at Navajo Dam Lake in Colorado/New Mexico. 6000′ elevation, 75 degrees, 200 lb below gross weight, four people and luggage, 3100′ grass runway fortunately sloping down, but not so good…right at the lake. Book said it would fly and it did..barely. I put the nose down, built up airspeed a bit and slowly climbed out over the water just below. Thank you to my CFI, Bob D., who said “aviate, navigate, communicate in that order” and tapped my hands when I didn’t.

  • toddt

    Great video. Because of it I’ve read lots of really good tips on maximizing performance. The judgement part is harder, but I guess you have to trust your POH. And leave a margin for not being perfect. Also, I’ll definitely be practicing many of the tips on a long sea level runway. That’s the fun part. Thanks for the information.

  • Andrew Mammen

    It’s a good thing you took a second to get your mojo before departure. Without that extra mojo it might have been a whole different outcome!

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