Real Pilot Story: From Miscue to Rescue

No matter how much experience a pilot has, we have all faced a situation where the weather forecast was a bit questionable, yet seemingly not bad enough to keep us on the ground…until we find ourselves in the middle deteriorating conditions. It’s a great topic for your flying club’s next safety seminar. The Air Safety Institute’s Real Pilot Story: From Miscue to Rescue, provides an actual incident where this was the case.

On May 26, 2012, N4640L departed on a cross-country flight from Lodi, California, to Mountain Home, Idaho. On board the Cessna 172 were the non-instrument rated 300-hour private pilot, his wife, and one of his daughters. The pilot, Brian Brown, had carefully checked weather conditions the week before the flight. On the day of departure he noticed that some adverse weather had moved across their flight path over the Idaho Mountains. But he felt confident it would clear out of the region by the time they would reach the area, so the family launched on the trip.

Unfortunately, that confidence became wishful thinking as the flight proceeded: Only 25 miles away from its destination the 172 and its occupants were scud running—just below the cloud layers—at 1,000 feet above the inhospitable terrain to stay out of the weather.

In Real Pilot Story: From Miscue to Rescue, Brown takes you along on a personal and emotional journey as he reflects how a series of delays, poor decisions, and lack of preparation turned the four-hour cross-country flight into a 30-hour survival crisis for him and his family.

Brown shares several hard lessons learned, including the importance of matching expectations with experience and skill levels, not to press on in adverse conditions, and to be prepared with a Plan B and using it. It’s something all flying club members can learn from. After their forced landing into a ravine in the unforgiving Idaho backcountry, he knows you can’t count on luck alone. Watch the video story and consider your actions when presented with a similar scenario.

Safe pilots are always learning, and the Air Safety Institute’s goal is to ensure pilots have a wealth of information to keep flying safely. Our educational programs are funded through donations from pilots dedicated to forwarding that mission. Show your support by donating to the AOPA Foundation today (

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