SIU Prepares Pilots for Emergencies

By Arnold Wyrick
CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - One of the best pilot training schools in the nation is right here in southern Illinois.  For more than 30 years young pilots have earned their wings at Southern Illinois University.
One of the situations those student-pilots must learn about is what do when the plane hits birds or other wildlife.
A US Airways plane hit some birds and had to ditch in the Hudson River Thursday.
"Over the years we've had a number of situations where we would have bird strikes or even a deer," said SIU's Chief Flight Instructor John Voges.  "We've had deer on the runways, we will occasionally have coyotes on the runway."
Voges points out how one former student's training kept him from panicking and likely saved his life.
"We had a student two years ago who was doing a night flight," Voges said.  "He hit a small migrating duck.  The impact drove the duck through the windshield.  The duck was split in half, half of it ended in the back of the plane.  The other half took the pilots headphones off."
"He did as he was trained to do and that is fly the plane, maintain airspeed, maintain basic attitude control," Voges said.  "He assessed the situation, notified the control tower and was able to turn the plane around and land it safely."
Now SIU has added another tool to their aviation flight program.  It's a computer flight simulator that puts a pilot as close to being in the air, but with his feet still on the ground.
"We can simulate a student breaking out of cluster of clouds and show them what it would be like to get into those situations," said SIU Flight Instructor Steve Goetz.  "We can create certain wind and weather conditions, plane malfunctions all options that we didn't have with the other simulators."