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Watching a pilot crash-land, from his point of view

Remarkable footage of a pilot smacking his glider into a mailbox during an emergency landing is proving to be a valuable learning tool.

Larry Hockensmith/YouTube Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I would no more pilot a plane than I would wear a lampshade on my head to dinner.

This remarkable -- and, as it turns out -- very instructive footage is a case for my defense.

It was posted to YouTube by Larry Hockensmith, who takes full responsibility for everything that happens in it.

This includes his sailplane's wing crashing into someone's mailbox.

I am grateful to for directing me to this beautiful and very slightly disturbing footage, which, I suspect, may not disturb regular pilots at all -- or even regular people with mailboxes.

Hockensmith's own description of the landing -- which took place on a road near the Cleveland National Forest, a couple of miles southwest of Lake Elsinore, Calif. -- is quite breathtakingly open.

To accompany his YouTube posting, he begins: "Complacency has no place in soaring."

I am not aware if he knows anyone at RIM or Netflix, but it is a line that may soon adorn many an office cubicle in those and other companies.

Hockensmith continues: "I was trained better than to have lingered on the lee-side of a ridge over rough terrain. The dramatic outlanding was due to my actions exclusively."

Dramatic is an excellent word for the proceedings, which took place on a beautiful November day. Everything seems to be under control.

He has identified a road on which he will land (he chose the road over a nearby field, which he felt presented more danger), one that doesn't seem to have large trucks coming in the other direction.

Indeed, Hockensmith -- a licensed power pilot for over 40 years, but still a student glider pilot -- describes his maneuvering as "almost perfect."

However, he says that the differences between a power pilot's training and that of a glider pilot seem to have led him to miscalculate. His sailplane struck the mailbox "about 8 inches from the tip" of his right wing.

He says that this footage has been reviewed by many since this incident.

"My instructor, safety officer, FAA and NTSB were all outstanding professionals in helping grow skills from this experience," he writes.

Still, I am naive enough to believe that he did a rather fine job of landing this thing with the only casualty being a mailbox, rather than, say, a house.

In the YouTube comments, he does admit to experiencing "soiled undies." However the aircraft is, apparently, OK. Well, it will be.

"The wings were damaged, and replacements for those are nonexistent. The plane was valued about $8,500 and "totaled" by the insurance carrier. An individual bought it for a low, salvage price and after investing labor and money will have a spiffy Schweizer 1-26," he says.

Perhaps the most telling description, though, of what seems to some people scary and to others plain matter-of-fact, is his description of the first vehicle he encountered after the crash.

Hockensmith writes: "It was the garbage truck. The guy drove up, stared at my plane sitting atop the pile of garbage, looked me in the eyes, shrugged his shoulders and drove off without another word."