Biplane Lands Safely on Sacramento Levee


Biplane Lands Safely on Sacramento Levee

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento airplane accident lawyer. The levee along the American River in Sacramento did more than protect River Park homes from flood waters on October 2. It gave a pilot a place to land his biplane.

What Happened

The pilot, Alan Hoover, said he was returning from the National Championship Air Races in Reno to Prescott, Arizona, by way of a layover in Rio Linda, when he realized his electronic fuel and ignition system was not performing correctly, causing the engine to sputter. The 66-year-old stunt pilot said he knew he needed to land the plane before it crashed, but his landing site options were limited since he would need to fly over residential areas to reach either Sacramento’s executive airport or Mather Airport.

The former military pilot and Air Force Academy graduate said the plane was at 1,200 feet above ground, lower that the 5,000 feet normally flown, when he saw the golf course at Campus Commons on the east side of the river and a levee on the west. Hoover said the golf course was crowded, but no one was on the levee and that the dike area was essentially a straight run, similar to the runway he used at his home. He made a controlled landing despite the lack of full power and did so without endangering anyone on the ground.

Stunt Pilot Experience Helped

Hoover said he performed essentially the same maneuver about a hundred times when working on last February’s film, The Space Between Us, shot in New Mexico. He said the road was a similar size in the movie, preparing him for Monday’s landing in Sacramento. He commented that an emergency landing such as this is based on a pilot’s judgment and the ability to find an area that is straight enough and wide enough to accommodate the plane’s wing span.

A Fascination with Flight

Hoover said he was fascinated with flight even as a boy, mentioning the names of Rickenbacker and Lindbergh as well as the barnstormers who entertained crowds in the 20s by performing stunts and emphasizing the sturdiness of airplanes. Lindbergh himself took up flight as a barnstormer early in his career. Hoover has served his country as an air force pilot, logging 4,000 hours. He also worked as a NASA test pilot and a Southwest airline pilot for 23 years. Hoover’s interest in biplanes led to airshows and ultimately Hollywood.

Airplane Accident Statistics

While the odds of dying in an airplane crash are 1 in 29.4 million, when they happen, the effects are catastrophic. Crashes happen most often during takeoff and descent, evenly split at 16 percent. Pilot error accounts for 32 percent of crashes and mechanical error for 20 percent.

Pilot Error

Pilot error is the chief reason a plane crashes into the ground or other structural entities. Despite warning systems on most flights, pilot error can include drunkenness, distraction or the lack of sufficient training. While much has been written on the danger of driving drunk or distracted, the same can be said of flying in these situations.

Mechanical Error

This can occur if a part is worn or not serviced. It can also happen due to a defect in the original design of the aircraft or a mistake during the manufacturing process. This latter sort of negligence can lead to a products liability claim while airline maintenance is the duty of care airlines owe to passengers.

Weather Related

Weather is a significant factor for airline safety as evidenced by the number of flights delayed due to severely inclement weather. Pilots are trained to fly under bad weather conditions, however, sometimes this training is lacking. Weather-related issues account for 12 percent of all fatal crashes. While crashes are associated with fog and ice, microbursts can take a tremendous toll on the safety of the passengers.


Microbursts are downdrafts in severe thunderstorms that are opposite to a tornado. There are two types, either the wet variety or the dry, lasting for five to about 15 minutes and spanning approximately 2.5 miles. It is caused when the rain from a storm evaporates, and the cold air hits the ground and splashes back up. The winds generated by the microburst are of considerable danger to airplanes that are landing or taking off. Equipment to warn of microburst activity has been implemented, but accidents continue to happen if the warning is ignored.

Sacramento Airplane Accident Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, an airplane accident lawyer in Sacramento. Airplane accidents can result in horrific injuries such as burns or passenger deaths. It is important for the peace of mind of those injured or left behind to know why the crash happened. That is why considerable effort goes into determining the cause. Pilot error or inexperience as well as maintenance, mechanical and other reasons may be cited after an investigation concludes.

When this happens to you or a member of your family, you are left with many questions. I am available to answer your questions at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. I offer friendly advice without charge.

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