By Dr. James Runnels, Multi Instrument Rated ER Physician & Pilot
If Dan Bass were a cat, he’d be down to eight lives. He’s told his story of a CO exhaust leak in his Mooney that incapacitated him in various forums, and I’ve referenced him in my talks and a previous blog post. It’s such an instructive and important story that I would like to point you to the best version of it that I know of. Short version: an unrecognized exhaust leak led to CO toxicity building up over 4 legs of flying in the north on a winter day. Non-specific symptoms were present and gradually worsening during the day, but not recognized for what they were. On climb out on the fourth leg, he became unresponsive and the plane continued to climb until it ran out of fuel. In what has to be one of the most amazing crash survival stories in general aviation, the plane came back down at effectively best glide pitch, and bounced miraculously to a (barely) survivable crash landing while he was still unconscious. He came to some hours later as the CO slowly began to wear off. Badly injured including frostbite, he managed to extricate himself from the plane and find help at a nearby home. Lots of medical attention and recovery later, he’s back flying — and telling his story in a truly positive way. There are many amazing parts of this story, but what is so incredibly valuable about it as a teaching tool is that it is all well-documented, explainable in detail, and you can hear about it from the perspective of the guy who actually lived through it. And, ultimately, what we can and should all do to avoid such an outcome in our own flying. Dan has been very gracious and proactive about educating pilots about CO dangers through his nearly fatal experience, and he did so again on a recent FAASTeam webinar, hosted by Laura Herrmann of the FAASTeam in Minnesota. It’s just shy of an hour, and he does an outstanding job of taking you the details. It’s a rare example of a well-documented event that would ordinarily have ended in tragedy and a bunch of we’ll-never-know’s. Dan and Laura have graciously agreed to let me post links to the webinar so you can watch it yourself in full. Trust me, it’s an hour you will not regret.