Story & Photo by David Spargur
A flight instructor taking a pilot on a checkride at Fullerton Airport averted a life-threatening situation when they were forced to make an off-airport emergency landing on the street directly after takeoff. No one was injured and the airplane suffered only moderate damage.
At about 5:15pm on Friday, June 20th, Certified Flight Instructor Benjamin Dennis was doing routine landing pattern work with his student when the Cessna 172M they were flying lost power on takeoff.
Mr. Dennis told KTLA news “My passenger was a private pilot buying a flight review. He had control of the airplane when it started losing power” on takeoff. Mr. Dennis took over the controls and, as the airplane continued to lose power, Mr. Dennis made the safest call he could and managed to land the airplane on westbound Commonwealth Avenue off the end of the runway. It came to a stop just east of the Indiana Street intersection. Despite rush hour traffic Mr. Dennis avoided coming close to cars. He did lose his left landing gear when it clipped the center divider curb. The airplane came to a stop as the left wing hit center divider brush and spun the airplane to the left.
Richard Malluyo was working nearby and stated “I heard a gliding sound and all of a sudden I turned around and the plane was right there. It was pretty scary to have something so close to our building.”
This Cessna 172M was built in the 70s and has been nicknamed “The Moose” by a some renters. It is currently owned by Hess Garret, who owns Fun Outside Aviation. Also known as the Skyhawk, it seats four people with a passenger weight capacity of around 700 pounds with fuel tanks full. When the airplane touched down it was probably traveling near its stall speed of 49 mph. Mr. Dennis was able to set the wing flaps down and minimize landing speed. Losing power on takeoff is considered to be one of the most challenging situations and requires skill and quick action to avert loss of life in the plane and on the ground.
“Obviously planes landing on the street isn’t good for general aviation, but, you know, proper training kept us alive.” said Mr. Dennis. “I’m glad to be here and safe on the ground.”