Slipping and Sliding into Big Creek Idaho

One of my dreams while getting older has been fulfilled – my kids are still interested in doing things with us.  We had a trip planned this summer to use mules for a backcountry adventure and my daughter Belyn and her boyfriend Brian were set to go.  Except Belyn was in Idaho working as raft guide on the Main and Middle forks of the Salmon.

So I went and got her.

Big creek
Sunrise enroute

I picked her up and we flew over some of her rafting routes on the Middle Fork, then flew up Big Creek to spend the night at the rebuilt lodge there. I flew a good pattern above the airport but lost sight of the runway on downwind.

I guessed at the right spot to turn base, and guessed wrong.  That was my first mistake. When the runway came into view I knew I was hot and high.  No problem, its a very long runway at 3,500 feet and I have time to try somethings.  No problem here.

I pulled off all power, full flaps and after a turn to final went into a full slip. I was still too fast and that was my big mistake.  At that point executing a go around would be easy, even with the rising terrain.  I continued, thinking the long grass runway would save me.

I saw the sprinklers going and landed on the right side, about halfway down. However because of the sprinklers on the left side there were planes parked on the right instead of the left hand parking area.  Not wanting to potentially hit a plane I steered in right next to the sprinklers.  Now water is hitting the windshield and I realize I have almost no braking power in the soaking wet turf.

There was a group of people at the end gathered to say goodbye to someone.  I looked at them and thought, “if you knew what I know, you would get the hell out of the way, because I’m not stopping”.

I did stop.  But I’m not disclosing how many feet I had left.  Someone from the group came over and turned off the sprinkler that was jetting into the side of the plane. Another thanked me for not hitting their parked plane. I felt sick.

Although they look like skid marks my nose wheel doesn’t have brakes. Just very wet.

Such a rookie mistake, trying to force a landing when you can easily just go around and try again. Never stop learning!

It could have been worse. An hour later a Citabria came in, touched down and lost control.  He bounced over the water pipe and went through a wood fence before stopping with weeds binding up the propeller. It may be totaled, so as bad as I felt, I felt worse for him (a multi-thousand hour DC-3 pilot!).

Then a red custom cub comes in.  He starts to touch down about halfway, but powers up and “drives” down the runway a few feet up until he nears a parking spot, then touches down and stops in maybe 20 feet.  That’s how its done.

Big creek-3
The next day this guy was going to land on a Selway beach and go pack rafting.  Very cool.
Big creek-2
Great camping mere feet from the runway.  I almost parked my plane right here.
From what I understand, this is what Idaho backcountry flying is all about
Belyn breakfast
Yeah I’m smiling but I’m still mad at myself


6 thoughts on “Slipping and Sliding into Big Creek Idaho

  1. Don’t beat yourself up too bad, Ney. At least the only damage was to your ego! Still hurts, but much less expensive. Haven’t been to Big Creek since the old lodge burned down. The new place looks awesome! Got to get back there.

    1. Thanks Craig. Yes the new lodge is awesome – I hope they make it. Caretakers are very nice.

      1. I need to go back and actually stay in the lodge with my wife, but for some reason she isn’t that excited about it.

  2. Hi from New Zealand. Your website is great and I enjoy your blogs and magnificent photos. The US is such a beautiful and grand country. I fly helicopters over here but have been enjoying catching up with fixed wing bush pilots and I get to watch our annual STOL competition in Blenheim (South Island). Anyway just thought I’d let you know that I appreciate your efforts with this site. Regards David

    1. Hi David,

      Thank you, I appreciate the kind comments! – Ney

    2. David, thank you very much for the genuine comments. I appreciate it. – Ney

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