Today we spent time flying up and down the coast near Santa Cruz. When we were near Watsonville we heard a crash announced on Watsonville CTAF. A woman who we found out was 73 years old, flying a Cessna crashed short of runway 20. We still do not have many details of what happened. (Crash photo above from Watsonville City Staff) (More info from KSBW)
The first call we heard was from the airport staff advising of the runway status. Then we heard a lot of people jumping on and talking over one another. There was a lot of confusion.
There were several interesting things happening at once that made the situation strange. A glider in the area had committed themselves to land at Watsonville before the crash. They were then forced to continue after the crash to the airport amidst some of the confusion of what was going on. With 20 closed, they landed on 27, and it sounded like they had prepared to land on a taxiway if needed.
Cal Star who had checked on frequency before the crash, was transitioning the area. They asked several times if they needed to come onto the scene. They were never answered by any official, but a pilot on ground radio'd that they better get to the crash site. I'm certain that the victim was thankful because she was life flighted for her injuries to safety.
It was bizarre being on frequency listening to it all unfold. My student in the left seat and myself flew along without much thought while we listened.
Planes continued to enter the pattern at the airport even after the crash had been announced. So far as we could tell all diverted.
Here are a few things we can take away from being on the radio while these sorts of things are happening.
1. Fly the airplane. Don't get so caught up listening that you loose track of flying and navigating.
2. Shut up. Don't feel like you need to say something on the radio. Several times people ended up stepping on one another during the incident today.
3. Get Clear of the area. There was a lot of confusion about the status of the airport. If you hear a crash has occurred at the airfield you are arriving at, you better head to your alternate! So have an alternate!
I'm thankful today that Cal Star was so nearby to help, and I hope that the pilot who came up short on 20 recovers. The images of the accident site show the airplane had telephone cables wrapped around it. It will be interesting to hear what the cause was.
Be safe out there! What a way to start the New Year. I hope this isn't the trend and I hope our pilot today recovers safely.