“If a pig walks out on the runway … PORKCHOPS!”
“If a cow walks out on the runway … HAMBURGER!”
Chief Pilot Brian Shepson explained MAF’s landing procedures to a class of new MAF pilots in a way that simultaneously left my palms sweaty and mouth watering. These new pilots would be practicing these procedures on the training flight I would be joining into the Idaho backcountry.
Shepson was discussing one very important procedure: the abort point. Once an MAF plane has gone past the abort point there is no turning back—even at the risk of sounding like a bad joke: “A pig, a cow, and an airplane walk onto a runway …”
The abort point, as Shepson explained, is an imaginary point chosen by the pilot for both landings and takeoffs. After passing this point, a pilot is committed to either takeoff or land the plane.
This is especially important when landing on runways surrounded by steep mountains or tall jungles. As the plane comes in for a landing, the pilot is asking himself or herself (MAF has women pilots too, you know) “where is my out?” Where can the pilot safely turn the plane and fly out if the runway has something obstructing it or if they simply need to circle back and come in on a different approach? Once the pilot passes the abort point, taking an “out” is no longer an option.
The abort point is the last point on the descent the pilot can safely fly out—after this point it is ALWAYS safer to land the plane. It is much safer to make hamburger out of an aimless cow at a slow speed than to dodge it and crash into a mountainside at flying speed.
This kind of training prepares MAF’s pilots to land on remote runways and greatly increases the safety of MAF’s flights.
In spite of all this, I sincerely hope the only beef I will be munching on when I tag along on for the training flight this week is the stuff that’s served in the Nampa airport diner.
I can attest to MAF’s standard of safety, having landed in many difficult airstrips in Indonesia over 21 years of service, with only one minor accident and two minor incidences, I thank our safety crew for their diligence! The airstrip pictured (Long Nawang) I landed at last back 23.5 years ago. Still looks the same!