Foxbat lands on cargo ship
I recently watched the video of one of the most impressive landing and take off I have ever seen – a small plane landing on a ship at sea. This is right up there with the video of the Piper Cub that landed and took off on a mountain ridge.
The pilot of an Aeroprakt A-22 Foxbat Xtreme, a British-registered kit plane, ident G-CWTD manoeuvres the plane over a landing strip of an aircraft carrier that is not more than 275 feet long.
The ship is an M2 Runner cargo ship. It’s length overall is 92.9 meters – or 305 feet. The length between the towers at the front and back is 84 meters – only 275 feet! Have you done your short field specialty take off and landings, especially those with obstacle, you will know that you have to calculate the amount of runway you will need to take off and land, and use special procedures to maximize the runway. But this is ridiculous. The Cessna 172 that I fly will require around 500 feet for the short field procedures. How is this possible?
Well if you watch the video, you will notice that the ship is sailing. The stall speed of the Foxbat is only 28-30 knots. The low stall speed means that the plane is able to fly quite slow before stalling. Compare this to the stall speed of a Cessna 172, which is around 47 knots (of course this will vary depending on weight, centre of gravity and so on). The Foxbat will stall at almost 20 knots slower.
I don’t know much about cargo ships, but I researched that they generally cruise at speeds between 20-26 knots. Thanks to the pilot of the Foxbat, who contacted me and corrected me that the speed of this ship was only 9 knots – and in good conditions, the maximum speed is 13 knots. This means the plane will have to fly at least that fast, and obviously above it’s stall speed, to keep up with the ship. If there was a strong headwind, this would help him as well. Remember it’s not the actual speed of the aircraft will determine when the plane will stall.
So how is he able to fly like this? So the ship is moving forward at 9 knots, and there is also a headwind, then depending on the strength of the headwind the Foxbat should be able to fly above stall speed and it will appear as if he is hovering over the runway. He is obviously flying well within approach limits given the amount of control he has.
In the 172 we approach at 60 knots (with flaps) and 70 knots without flaps, and generally land at around 50 knots or so. Flaps will help him fly slower If we assume his approach but it doesn’t look like he is using them in this approach. When we perform a short field landing, we hit the brakes really hard. Because of the ships movement, the plane touching down will have the same affect as hitting the brakes. Timing has to be perfect … Take a look at the video:
At the last minute, the pilot veers in front of the ships tower in the back, lines up and bounces down on the ground. It looks like he still is able to land at the back half of of his “runway.”
The takeoff is even more impressive. Spooling his engines, he has several people hold the plane down (as he is no doubt pressing on his brakes as hard as he can). Then he lifts off, and looks like he used only 50 feet of runway or so.
This is a very impressive display of extreme piloting. This guy is an excellent pilot, and also a bit of a daredevil. He is definitely taking a risk by demonstrating this procedure.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with the pilot, and though he said it was a dream come true, and things just came together to make this happen as the owner of the ship is a good friend of his – he wouldn’t do it again.