The Mechanics of Flight

680crash_4-13.jpg I was driving home yesterday when I caught the tail end of the traffic report. It said something like "...remember to avoid 680 in Concord at all costs, that freeway is shutdown due to the aircraft." Naturally my first reaction was, WTF? Fortunately my curiousity was satisfied quickly when they returned from a commercial. The details were vague but a small plane had "landed or crashed" on 680 in Concord, the freeway was shut down in both directions and traffic was backed up for miles.Well here's what happened. A Piper Arrow took off from Concord Airport and almost immediately lost engine power. The pilot tried to maneuver the plane back to Concord but it became apparent that he wasn't going to have the altitude. So he did the only thing he could and tried to land on the freeway. He was hoping people would see him and get out of the way but evidently people don't check their rear view mirrors as often as they should. The plane landed on the southbound lanes, hit a van injuring the occupants and slammed into the center divider. The pilot and passenger escaped before the plane burst into flames. Exciting stuff. Now here's the kicker. The pilot Curt Hatch flew to California with his son, from Colorado in the 23 year old rented plane to visit friends over the Easter weekend. Hatch said the plane lost partial power Monday, so he left it at Concord and waited for a mechanic, who flew in Tuesday from Colorado. The mechanic "fixed" the airplane by replacing a valve in one of the cylinders. Evidently he didn't do a very good job. It will be interesting to see what the FAA says about this one. So far their report is preliminary and simply says: ACFT ON DEPARTURE FORM RUNWAY 19L, LOST ENGINE POWER, HIT THE TREES, CRASHED ONTO THE I-680 FREEWAY, AND STRUCK TWO CARS SERIOUSLY INJURYING ONE PERSON IN ONE OF THE CARS, NO INJURIES TO THE TWO PERSONS ON BOARD THE ACFT, POST CRASH FIRE DESTROYED THE ACFT, CONCORD, CA I wasn't familiar with the Piper Arrow so I did a little research and the first document I read said the following: "Saddled with a battered image, handicapped by a powerplant with a nasty reputation, the Turbo Arrow should be approached with caution." Ominous. But it gets better. It goes on to say "...the engine was finicky, tricky to operate and prone to self destruction." Self destruction. Is that a "feature?" If I was Mr. Hatch, I would be wanting my money back.