Share Your Most Harrowing Flight Story

Share your stories about crazy, harrowing flight experiences.


Tell Us a Story

Every flight we make has an opportunity to be fun, scary, intense, relaxing or any number of emotions. It's fascinating to defy gravity and control an object flying through the air. We'd like to hear your stories about crazy, harrowing flight experiences. Maybe you saved the plane under extreme circumstances, maybe it crashed, but either way I think it will be fun to hear about it. I'll kick things off.

Last fall during the USA Team Select event for F3K (hand launch gliders) I was flying and doing well. If you are not familiar with these planes, they are 1.5M wingspan gliders that we discuss launch by spinning around and throw them to over 200ft in the air and compete flying different tasks. You find thermals and climb in them which can be a challenge in and of itself. We were flying at Hodges field. The group I was flying with during this round had all went pretty far out over a tree line and they found a thermal. I didn't have any air and was sinking rapidly. I didn't want to lose points by landing early so it became an all or nothing situation.

I was either going to make it to the thermal or I was going to land in the trees and likely damage or lose my $1000 plane. I headed to where I thought the lift was keeping an eye on the guys who were climbing higher and higher. Now sometimes a thermal can have a bottom to it and if you aren't high enough, you won't get in the rising air. I was getting pretty far away and very low and I thought I was going to "miss the ride." I had just a little bit of room to see the plane over the tree line, but it was close to getting out of my sight. My heart was pumping, but I stuck with it and literally a second or two before I lost the plane, I hit a bump of hot air. I circled in it until I was safely high enough to make it back home and get full points for the flight. I exhaled after landing back on the field and knew that was a flight I wouldn't soon forget.

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Apr 18, 2019, 09:15 AM
Registered User
DanT's Avatar
Just what the FAA want's to see and Read!!!
Sad !!!
Apr 18, 2019, 09:21 AM
Vertical Unlimited
Straight Up's Avatar
What a thrilling tale! I can imagine your heart racing! I’ve had quite a few in my time, and some did not have happy endings. However, here’s one that did. Similar to you, I was thermalling a plane. This was a Cermark New Timer, which was a fun “parkflyer” in its day, but not a thermal stalwart. I would thermal it often, usually with limited success. One day I nailed a really strong thermal. Due to always having to struggle to thermal this craft, I gave no thought to the strength of the thermal and was so happy to see it rising rapidly. Pretty soon it started to get small, then very small. I began losing orientation. I realised I needed to get out of the lift, or risk losing my plane. Unfortunately the New Timer doesn’t have a strong wing, so simply pushing the nose down was not an option. I tried spinning, which only kept it in the thermal. Eventually I started the motor and zoomed straight, figuring I needed to get away from that lift. I was now flying a dot, and my heart was pounding. After making my way across the sky I shut the motor down and reinitiated a spin. It took a long time, but eventually I could see a spinning wing, then the whole plane. I got it back and noted I had been airborne for about 20 minutes. Not all that long for a thermal glider, but very long for a motor powered park flyer!
Apr 18, 2019, 09:25 AM
RCG Admin
Jason Cole's Avatar
Thread OP
Originally Posted by DanT
Just what the FAA want's to see and Read!!!
Sad !!!
All done within the rules and over a forest. Nothing of concern for the FAA. Got any stories to share? Thatís what this thread is about. Donít worry over things you donít need to.
Apr 18, 2019, 09:42 AM
Old Master, New Grasshopper
toro's Avatar
Ok, I'll play.

I was flying a real 1-26E and in a vario pinning climbout and super slow, minimums. Around 5500 feet and hitting probably 1000+' a minute. Big day, signifcant cumes building, some overdeveloped a ways away. Gust hit me and flipped me completely upside down toward the outboard wing. It flipped me outside the thermal. within a second im looking at horizon from the bottom up. Altitude was key, and didn't panic. Continued out the bottom of the created split S, careful not to overspeed, and jumped right back in. That ended up in a 4 hour + day in a little 1-26E. Crapped my pants, respected mothernature, and was ready for anything after that.
This was a significant learning event in my novice soaring days that caused me to remember to never get complacent, and always leave a way out.
Latest blog entry: Pics
Apr 18, 2019, 09:52 AM
Registered User
I swear I'm not trying to be provocative or a "hater" or any of that. But the flat-out honest truth is, the most scary, traumatic things I've experienced flying RC planes were when my E-flite F-27 (last year) and my new E-flite V900 (this year) lost all contact to the radio and smashed into a tree, and the ground, respectively, at 100mph or more. In the case of the V900 Horizon sent me a new one, because the ESC was melted, and IMVHO was flat out defective. Last year when my F-27 went in, I thought it was my antenna placement, or my radio, or a cell tower, or lazer beams from a pedestrian bridge or the train tracks nearby.

After my recent V900 experience I now feel positive it was due to a faulty E-flite ESC.

I have been flying my second V900 with an FMS 70a ESC (sold the stock ESC for good money.. Winning!! )

Anyway, as a result of those experiences, I still switch my phone to airplane mode now when I fly, and don't gun it on the first couple passes. I phased out all non-X series receivers from my fleet, and have even bought a new QX7S, because I did not trust my old QX7 - even though more than a dozen other planes an MRs continued to fly with it without the slightest problem. All because those two crashes freaked me out so much. Obviously when you report crashes like that everybody starts presuming and wanting to point fingers. But I have hundreds, if not thousands of flights on other planes with no similar issues. Those two - WHAM!!!!! Just standing there holding the radio in shock... Then afterwards all the self-questioning, etc.. Still freaks me out a bit to think about all the cracking branches when the F-27 went into the tree, then the thud on the ground of the V900. They both went in hard.
Last edited by Herrsavage; Apr 18, 2019 at 09:57 AM.
Apr 18, 2019, 09:55 AM
Registered User
parajared's Avatar
I had a FPV flight where I flew a sailplane out about 4 miles away from launch. I had been soaring thermals for a while and the day was coming to an end, the thermals were starting to die off. I noticed that my battery was nearly flat (on my OSD) and that I would need to head back.

I tried to head back but just couldn't find anything going up so I kept returning this little "house thermal", a thermal that just reliably stayed in one spot. Battery anxiety was really starting to set in because my house thermal was getting weaker and weaker and I was stuck 4 miles away from launch with no upward air to ride and not enough battery to motor anywhere.

I kept hunting and hunting for lift and then my house thermal died! At that point it was a mad-grab for any fog's fart of lift I could get. I somehow managed to eek enough lift out of the sky to squeak the glider back to launch-point for a landing. A pucker-factor 4 mile adventure to say the least.

TL: DR Almost got stuck landing-out a sailplane a 4 mile hike away from launch.
Last edited by parajared; Apr 18, 2019 at 10:01 AM.
Apr 18, 2019, 10:43 AM
He who stalls....falls!
Going back a while now.
Thermalling an 85% Lanzo Bomber, large flat circles, 2 eagles happened along
and took position one on each wing-tip.
No threatening action or swooping on model, just an eagle, a Lanzo, and an eagle doing
150ft circles. Model was at a height I could still see the plan-form, and each eagle was
at least the same 7ft. span of the model, if not larger. They stayed for 5-10 minutes,
maybe they got bored with the orange/yellow bird that wouldn't talk to them.
Not really harrowing I guess, but one flight that is locked in the memory!
Apr 18, 2019, 11:08 AM
Mark 12:30
TipStalled's Avatar

NSTIWTIWGD moment !!

No *&^%, there I was, thought I was gonna die !!

Back in my skydiving day I was on a Beech 18 when the the left motor seized when we were at about 6 grand !. The plane came up to almost 90 degrees on the left side before the pilot got it under control ! We were all big eyed and breathing hard when he announced " I'm circling the airport, ya'll may want to get out !".. So one at a time we got to the door and exited. I was lucky to be one of the first out. I decided to open high and watched the plane circle the airport, left engine stopped, jumpers exiting ,some free falling for a while, others like me opening high. The sky was a vivid blue and the vision to this has been etched in my memory since. Went from one of most scariest moments to one of the best moments of my skydiving career !!
Apr 18, 2019, 11:18 AM
Wandering IT geek
ronin4740's Avatar
I'll play...

I fly AMA sanctioned three pole pylon. 422 class airplanes fly at speeds approaching 200mph and weigh about 4lbs. More than enough kinetic energy stored in one of these composite aircraft to make you have a *REALLY BAD DAY* if it happens to get loose and hit something... Like a car, a storage shed or a person...

A year or so ago my airplane building buddy and I are out at the Reno RC club field, located in beautiful Hungry Valley west of one of the Indian Colonies getting ready to test hop a repaired Sweet Vee. We take it out to the line, pull the paperclip that turns on battery juice to the receiver, verify that control surfaces are wiggling - in the right direction even! - and start the engine.

Scott needles the engine and I verify that the RPM is spinning the 7.4 x 7.5 carbon fiber prop at around 23K on the iX12's telemetry display. I give him the nod and he lets it go.

As soon as he lets it go the nose dips a little bit, resulting in a prop strike. Prop strikes are no bueno at 23K RPM as the imbalance in the prop causes more than enough vibration to tear stuff apart on the nose of even these heavily reinforced airplanes. However the Sweet Vee has rotation speed already so it's in the air by the time my hand moves to the button I use to cut fuel off to the engine and kill it. it's 20 feet in the air, heading straight up when I press the button... and nothing happens. The engine keeps running. Also I notice that I can't seem to turn the plane or reduce the angle of climb...

The Sweet Vee doesn't have quite enough thrust to continue to go straight up so it finally runs out of energy and performs stall turn at the apex and heads straight back at us! I'm frantically moving the transmitter sticks but it's not responding... I start yelling "I don't have it!!! I don't have it!!!" so that everyone knows that the plane is a 200mph unguided missile...

After two really big, really fast - because now the Sweet Vee is fully up to speed - loops which chase Scott and I behind a metal storage container it runs out of altitude at the bottom of one of the loops but not before it's passed over the fence separating the flight line from the pits and shot through a gap between the other end of the storage container Scott and I have sought refuge against and wooden gazebo, narrowly missing the car of the only other member at the field and leaving wreckage strewn across the parking lot.

We're pretty sure that the cause of the issue was the prop strike causing the receiver switch to move just enough to turn it off. However the battery was still connected to the receiver as were the vtail servos and they were responding to the iX12 when we walked over to it so there was also the possibility that it was a glitch in the iX12... That and a few other oddities with it were enough for me to go back to the DX9.

I've also since gone to Zepsus magnetic switches to reduce the chance of this happening again.

The photo attached gives you an idea of what the field looks like, what the flight path was and where Scott, I and the other Reno RC club member were hiding...
Apr 18, 2019, 11:28 AM
Old Master, New Grasshopper
toro's Avatar
The pylon story reminds me of a float fly I was at where I saw a really nice Schneider cup racer flutter and come through a crowd hitting an older guy and separating his shoulder.

I also witnessed a 40% panzl fire up at full throttle (after repair) and pulled the elderly father off his feet and hit the pilots hand as he instinctually reached out to stop it amputating pinky and index finger. That's a sound I'll never forget. I picked up his fingers as I watched them fly, and drove him to the trauma center. brutal injury
. I had connections at the trauma center as im based (paramedic) out of there so I was able to call and have specialists waiting . They saved his index lost his pinky.
Latest blog entry: Pics
Apr 18, 2019, 11:44 AM
Registered User
parajared's Avatar
"200mph unguided missile" lol
Apr 18, 2019, 12:14 PM
AMA 537620
ChillPhatCat's Avatar
I hit myself with my Super Sportster EP on takeoff a little more than 7 years ago.

I believe it was March, in Buffalo, and the wind was blowing 15-25 mph in gusts, and it was about 40 degrees out. I was just trying to stretch out my legs before I flew my team's DBF prototype (which we later decided to keep on the ground that day).

I put the plane on a dry and smooth stretch of runway, which was mostly wet from rains the previous night. I figured if I hit the throttle hard the plane would be off in a few feet. Well a cross-wind gust came along right as the plane went airborne and it turned 90 į straight for me. I took a split second to chop the throttle and blocked it with my arm, which hit the wing, and I pulled some matrix moves to dodge the still spinning propeller inches from my face... everything went slow motion. I did not receive any injury and the plane only broke half of the wing bolt mounting plate in the fuselage... prop was still intact. I ended up flying it anyway (not seeing the loose mounting bolt from visual inspection)... probably not the best decision but I needed to prove I wasn't incompetent. lol

I take crosswinds a lot more seriously... and I stay farther away or at least behind the plane now.

Later we flew the prototype under better conditions:
UB AIAA DBF 2012 Beta Plane Flight (4 min 44 sec)

The kid running out after takeoff was marking distance... had to be under 100 ft for the competition... yes we cleared the usage of that empty parking lot with security.
Apr 18, 2019, 12:56 PM
Registered User
Lynxman's Avatar
I lost a scratch built Short Skyvan to a dying potentiometer in my Hitec Prism 7 transmitter once. I was an apprentice and poor at the time (1998 I guess) so it sucked.

The potentiometer caused the aileron to go full left just left of the center point.

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