Pilot who experienced seven plane crashes in one week says his trip was 'doomed from the beginning'
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A pilot who survived after his plane crashed not once, but seven times in one week said his trip was 'doomed from the beginning'.
I've been lucky enough to avoid any plane crashes in my life so far, but I can pretty confidently say that just one would be enough to put me off taking part in any kind of aviation-related activity ever again.
The same cannot be said for Dennis Collier.
In 2021, Collier, who already had experience flying, got the desire to get back up in the skies after 20 years. He bought a plane from an online site for $110,000 (£91,300) before actually seeing it in person.
The plane was located in California, so Collier travelled from Michigan to pick it up and learned it hadn't flown in two years. He found some parts were installed incorrectly, and flaps on the wing and tail worked 'intermittently', the Detroit Press reports.
In spite of these concerning features, Collier went through with the sale. What followed was seven crashes in seven days, in four different states.
The first took place on a test flight at the end of June, during which Collier forgot to deploy the landing gear and landed with a bang, scraping the bottom of the fuselage.
Shortly after the test flight, he set off from California to New Mexico, where he learned the landing lights didn't work.
“I couldn’t see a thing,” he told The Detroit News. “Where the flip is the runway? Where is the ground?”
Not able to see, the pilot pulled back on the power, but the plane stalled and landed off the runway, with Collier crashing into a sign and several lights as he sought to reach the ground.
On 28 June, after a day of repairs, Collier tried to fly again, evidently not having been put off by the previous accidents.
The plane was still struggling though, prompting the pilot to return to New Mexico where he landed hard on the airstrip and took out yet another runway light.
After a quick trip to a hardware store, Collier was up in the skies again on 30 June and preparing to land in O’Neill, Nebraska.
Bet you can't guess what happened next.
While in the air, Collier realised the left wing hinged tab was stuck and the plane was pitching up. It took him four rough attempts to land, throughout which he hit three lights, bounced off the runway and shattered a motor that controls the trim on the left wing.
If you've lost count, that takes us to four.
Crash number five happened during another test flight in Nebraska, and the sixth took place on 3 July, when Collier heard the left landing gear come down on its own as he was flying over Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula.
The pilot decided to land at Schoolcraft County Airport in Manistique, but couldn’t get the nose landing gear to drop and consequently skidded down the runway, damaging the front hull and the nose gear door.
That takes us to crash number seven, on 4 July. Collier was just 80 miles from his destination of Boyne City and flying over Lake Michigan when his engine began sputtering again and turned off.
Not what you want when it's the only thing keeping you in the sky.
Collier's plane was an amphibious vehicle, meaning it was equipped to land on water, but on top of all the other issues, the flaps that would allow this to happen didn't work.
Instead, the landing gear caught the water and caused the plane to hit the lake nose-first. Water began to leak in and Collier was forced to climb on the tail of the boat, where he waited for an hour before being collected by the US Coast Guard.
After all of his crashes, Collier said he walked away with 'not a scratch, not a bruise, nothing'.
However, he believes he was never going to have an easy journey home, saying: "It was doomed. It was doomed from the beginning.”
The person who sold the plane to Collier told publication the plane was in good condition when they sold it.
Collier knew pretty quickly that he'd likely lose his flying licence after the series of unfortunate events, but he made clear he was willing to accept the loss, saying: "Life goes on. I have to let it go. It was a stupid thing to do.”