Tech's Quick Action Keeps Planes from Colliding
Edwin, a navigation technician at the Northwest Oregon System Support Center, was waiting to check the signal of a localizer recently when a plane crashed next to him at Aurora State Airport in Oregon.
His swift action afterward prevented what might have become a much more severe accident. As it turned out, neither the pilot nor the passenger was injured.
Edwin was at Aurora to perform a ground check on the instrument landing system. He was standing about halfway down the runway, 10 or 15 feet off the pavement, waiting for a landing plane to move past him so he could safely and accurately check the signal of the localizer.
As the plane drew next to him, it stopped abruptly and pitched forward, smashing its nose into the runway and throwing debris across the pavement. Edwin ducked to avoid any flying pieces of propeller or pavement. When he stood up, he heard a woman yelling for help from the plane. But he was more worried about what he didn't hear.
Edwin had a radio in his truck about a dozen feet away tuned to the airport's frequency. He didn't hear anyone in the crashed plane announcing their predicament. And he didn't hear the pilot of a plane swiftly approaching the airport asking why the runway wasn't clear. Edwin sprinted to the truck, grabbed the radio and said: "Aircraft inbound. Perform bypass. There's an accident on the runway. Return when all clear."
Edwin estimates the second plane was about 10 or 15 seconds from touching down. The pilot acknowledged the message and aborted his landing. With that risk addressed, Edwin ran to the crashed plane. The woman who had been yelling was already out and on the runway. But another passenger remained inside. His weight was holding the plane in its current, tipped-forward position. If he got out, the plane would have fallen back violently, causing more damage.
Edwin helped the woman gently bring the tail back down to the tarmac. Then he, the woman and a man who had run over from the fixed-base operator pushed the plane off the runway and onto a taxiway. Once Edwin and a few other people from the FBO cleared the debris off the runway, he went back to checking the localizer signal.
Afterward, he called his manager and the Pacific Operational Control Center to give his version of the accident. But he didn't tell anyone else about it.
When he came into work the next day, everyone was excited, he said. "Everyone was saying 'way to go.' They were proud of me," he said. But Edwin says his heroic effort was "just timing." If anyone else from the System Support Center had been in that spot at that time, they would have done the same thing, he said.
Still, Edwin's keen awareness of the entire situation was essential to the positive outcome, Mark, Northwest Oregon System Support Center manager, said.
"Edwin is a very meticulous and thorough employee," he said. "It's not surprising that when something like this happened in front of him, he was thinking of all the aspects of what was going on. Most people would have run to help the people in the plane and not thought about the traffic in the air."
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