I learned to drive in Wyoming. This means that a road is only considered impassible when you can’t make out where the road ends and the grass begins, or the snow is physically higher than your car. This also means that you perfect the art of hitting large animals in your car without flipping over or swerving off the road. As it turns out, these skills transfer nicely to flying.
It was my very first solo cross country. I was a pregnant student pilot, and I was nervous about my landing since I wasn’t used to flying without an extra 170 pounds of flight instructor as I came into Chino Airport. Turns out I didn’t have to worry about my landing, it was takeoff I should have been thinking about.
I landed a little flat, taxied back to the runway, and called up tower for my clearance, making sure to mention I was “N9897F, Student Pilot”. I taxied out to the runway, took a deep breath, applied full power, and got the plane to within 5 knots of takeoff speed… and saw a bunny run right in front of me.
Time slowed down.
Little Man did a backflip in my belly and started hiccuping.
In that split second, I decided, based on my speed and how close I was to takeoff, that it would be better to just hit the rabbit straight on than try to veer, which would have flipped the plane. I hit it, and the bump was enough to force my plane to take off, a leetle bit too slow. I pushed the nose over, and used my soft field takeoff skills to get to a safe speed.
I called tower. “Chino tower, 9897F, student pilot. Can you take a peek and see if all my wheels are still attached?”
“97F, looks like it. Everything okay?”
I gave him the abbreviated version, and asked, “What do I do?”
“Well… are you flying?” (duhhhh) “Just keep going, I guess. Doesn’t make a difference if you land here or there. We’ll look for the bunny, but if we don’t find a body don’t bother filing a report.”
Turns out the bunny was never found. There was a little bit of fur stuck to my nosegear, but otherwise, not a trace of Little Bunny Foo-Foo.
So, remember- whether you’re in a car or a plane, don’t swerve when a small critter runs out in front of you. It’s safer for you to just run it over.