Gus Hawkins

Started flying at age 19.  1800 hours: SEL, MEL and SES

On May 2, 2009, I crashed my experimental seaplane.  Nothing was wrong with the AC.  I had just forged too many links in the failure chain to prevent my crash shortly after takeoff.  The last thing I remembered seeing was the top of trees at an altitude of maybe 150 feet.  I was out for five minutes, so I’ve been told, and when I came to, I immediately knew (some) of what I had done wrong.  But, it took me more than a year to do a true Root Cause Analysis of all of the causes.  It wasn’t pretty.


At first, I wanted to quit flying forever, because of the sense of failure I felt, and what I had put my family though during my 30 day hospital stay.  I believed that I had let the entire flying community down by screwing up.  Then I remember the saying, “you are not a failure unless you quit after one”.  THAT, and the support of my family, got me back, and I am glad I returned.

I had significant doubts about my ability to handle another in flight emergency.  My flight instructor, Dale, pushed me hard to get my skills back.  But I still had my doubts.  They eased a lot on a flight a year after the accident when I had a “gear unsafe” warning light in my Cessna Skymaster.  I followed the book to the letter, managed to stay composed, and made a good landing at a towered airport with the fire trucks rolling.  Gear stayed locked.  The problem was simply a malfunctioning squat switch.  But, I knew that I was still capable of flying the plane first, the emergency second.