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Seawind Saga: Pilot who crashed in Lake Michigan had 7 crashes in 7 days

Dennis Collier, a licensed Traverse City pilot, paid $110,000 for the 2010 Seawind on a Saturday, ended up in the drink a week later, and on the way crashed — by his own account — seven times, in seven days in four states. ( More...

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The fact that he had so many issues, but didn’t take it to a shop to get it looked at, speaks volumes.
Michael Lloyd 4
According to the CFII that I fly with he got some help for the problem that he had at KFMN. It's hard to imagine every landing being a train wreck and living...
Joel Kampa 27
To me it sounded like he ran out of fuel twice. It is lucky he didn't kill someone on the ground. The story is not just about the airplane failing, rather a pilot who failed almost every time he had a chance.
That guy is a sad excuse of an aviator. Any reason for not permanently grounding him?
gilgraham 17
I agree. No telling how many regs he busted. It's what makes the FAA so hard on the rest of us. Maybe not a permanent grounding but a large dose of training is certainly in order.
Eric33432 4
Perhaps a stint in a mental institution
Chris Bryant 31
Really, really poor judgment; starting with the decision to finalize the purchase, and continuing through every single decision to get back in the airplane and fly it.
James Driskell 12
Maybe Collier would be interested in the bridge I have for sale. It's located in New York and $4000 will hold it until he arrives to take possession.
djames225 31
He would probably crash trying to get there
FarleyJ 11
Are we supposed to show sympathy for these clowns?
AWAAlum 11
This man's not a pilot, he's a crash dummy.
Michael Lloyd 10
Other than pushing forward when everything that was going on should have told him to take the aircraft back and get his money back. The aircraft was a disaster and coupled with his overconfidence it's not surprising that this played out like it did.

I'd suggest reading the article all the way through. In the KFMN incident, he "landed" early in the morning, in a seaplane that had lots of mechanical issues, at an airport that sits on a mesa, and he hadn't landed at night in the last 20 years. You might say "he should have kept going". To where? He was low on fuel, everything to the east and north is high terrain, had he kept going his luck would have run out. His mistakes were driven by gross over confidence and get-there-i-tus and the aircraft was a pile of crap that had been repaired and "diddled with" in a shoddy manner. The seller owns some of this. It doesn't sound like he will fly again, either due to his choice or the FAA
The FAA should have grounded him and the plane after the second crash and phone call they received about this guy’s adventure.
Gregg Bender 8
This guy should have quit and sent the plane on a truck after the first forced landing. In my opinion, he shouldn't fly anything again. His judgment is highly suspect.
serge LOTH 7
Fortunatly there are only 7 days in a week!
This is a cautionary tale of a pilot that can't recognize risk. And has no business flying as a result.

The first challenge (the plane nosed up uncommanded) is immediate grounds for grounding the plane until the problem is identified and solved.

The fact he crashed once (and I've been flying over 1100 hours plus, and I've never crashed once, much less SEVEN times) should have been a RED FLAG - THIS PLANE ISN'T RIGHT.

People like this project an image of aviation that is incorrect - general aviation is VERY SAFE. Good pilots with good judgement don't make these mistakes - they see a problem, and get it corrected, not say "Gee, I have to get home."

This (as a licensed pilot) is simply appalling, and I hope that the general public reading this doesn't think this is how things go every day. I just flew 7 hours in a week - I never had a single crash, abnormal event, or issue.

And how does a plane which hasn't flown for 2 years get in the air? I needed a FAA Ferry Permit - it was out of inspection (annual).

I suspect the pilot will lose his certificate after this debacle, and rightly so.
Ohio2Montana 6
A very selfish uncaring person, not concerned about others safety.
Gregg Bender 5
He used up all his luck on this one. Lucky to be alive.
Ken Bravogel 5
This guy is in so far over his head. Not just as a pilot but as A clear thinking adult as well.
Just overpaid for derelict airplane.Cell phone on empty. Credit card on empty. Insurance on empty
Ran out of talent as a pilot.
Colin Seftel 5
The Seawind 3000 seems to have a very forgiving airframe. This story is from Wikipedia:

The first prototype crashed during testing on 3 April 1993 with test pilot Bob Mills and SNA president Dick Silva on board. After several routine tests, they attempted to simulate an engine-out situation reducing the engine power and setting the prop pitch to high. However, due to a malfunction, the propeller went into reverse pitch. The crew attempted to reach the runway but, due to the high descent rate and reverse thrust, they landed in rough terrain short of the runway at approximately 80 mph (129 km/h), hitting several boulders on two sides of an embankment. The crash forces were estimated to be in excess of 20Gs. Although the aircraft suffered extensive damage, both crew suffered only muscle strains. The crash also showed the strength of the composite structure and, in particular, the vertical fin/engine pylon arrangement.

Any crash that you can walk (or swim!) away from is a good landing, right?
Greg Thompson 2
Very impressive they could survive a 20g crash!
That was a prototype test. Goofy stuff happens during prototype testing. It isn't the same as a plane that was built and had it been inspected, would be safe to fly.
Why is the aircraft the focus of this story? The plane only facilitated a pilot making a serial-series of poor decision judgements but managed to live somehow. This should be required reading in flight school while having the student place the events leading to each 'crash' into the categories of:

Impulsivity, Invulnerability, Macho, Resignation and Anti-authority. That is, intergrade it into the ADM program of the flight school.
Greg Thompson 2
Airplanes are mechanical devices. If there is something broken that compromises safety it must be repaired before flight. There are hotel rooms we can stay in until a qualified A&P can make the repairs. If we must be somewhere by a certain time there are other means of transportation. I’ve been flying nearly 40 years. I’ve had dozens of instructors during this time. Every one has always emphasized safety is priority 1 before every flight. As a pilot we must take this responsibility seriously. It’s not just our lives at stake. Many of us fly multi ton missiles loaded with explosive fuel at high rates of speed. We have to be willing to sacrifice deadlines in the interest of safety.
Matt LaMay 8
Sorry, Mr Collier. This won’t be a Hollywood hit starring Tom Hanks. This will end up with some fines and your license being pulled.
Chris Bryant 5
If they're going to make a movie, shouldn't it be starring Harrison Ford? He's had some piloting issues recently. :)
I agree!
M20ExecDriver 4
There's no fool like an old fool.
John Ward 4
OK, used the link suggested by Mark, and, my conclusion this guy really called Walter Mitty? What a tale of poor flying technique and total disregard to the safety of others! I presume he will have his licence to fly revoked!
Greg Thompson 4
I’m surprised the FAA didn’t pull his license until he underwent additional training. The plane should have been grounded until an A&P could inspect the plane and certify it as airworthy. After a crash it’s unheard for a pilot to be allowed to look it over and approve it for flight. It’s one thing for a pilot to put himself at risk. However once airborne there is a risk to the public. Hopefully not only the pilot but the FAA investigators need to answer to their superiors.
David Westner 4
Geez. At least this fellah had the sense to be flying solo.
Can you imagine though? One crash would make me re-think the whole flying thing pretty seriously. After the second one, I'd be done.
This guy crashed SEVEN TIMES.
Mark Harris 5
Would love to be able to read the full story but not available to us here in the UK. Does anyone have a link to an article I CAN read?
Mark Harris 4
Found one -
Greg Thompson 1
John Ward 1
Just picked up on your comment Mark! Funny old world is it not!
Gary Eldridge 5
In reality he never crashed. There were a few hard landings. I hate it when the media uses the word CRASH for an unconventional landing. They do aviation such a disservice.
Yet watching “Air Disasters” episodes, I remember one of the NTSB investigators calling landings of commercial aircraft “controlled crashes”.
Daniel Gless 4
Unintended collision with terrain. Error: pilot in command.
Randy Barron 2
No. Just no. "Hard landings" result in damage to the plane, and the Swiss Cheese" theory kicks in.

Plus, if you don't call him nosing down into water 300 feet deep a "crash," I'm not flying with you.
1jeb 4
Tom Hanks is not appropriate to play this character in “7 days and 7 crashes” but BOZO THE CLOWN 🤡 would be!!!
Ron Nash 6
Flying from NM to Chicago, "using rivers and highways as navigational aids", seems to indicate Collier is lacking in formal navigational skills - not to mention serious deficiencies in many of his other piloting and judgement skills. A guy who doesn't even ensure he has a constant means of communication and backup, on a cross-continental trip, is not someone you'd ever want to fly with. I'm amazed this guy has lived as long as he has.
Not at all - it's called pilotage, and is part of every pilot's training.

I would have bought and used a hand-held GPS personally - it's a lot faster.
patrick baker 4
he is flying an amphibian- uses rivers and lakes as runways- for the brief time he is capable of remaining airbourne. By any definition he qualifies as a public menace, unsuitable for airman rights and flying privilidges. His IFR skills are "i fly rivers". The credentials of his flight instructor and the FAA examiner who passed him need to be evaluated, maybe suspended along with Colliers medical certificate and his insurance and his flight certificate.
bbabis 2
It reminds me of the story of the Vin-Fizz or something like that that made the first East to West crossing of the U.S.. I think Cal Rodgers was the pilot's name and he had many crashes, some with injuries requiring recuperation, along the way and it took several months.
I mentioned this to the wife. She had a friend in Michigan, decades ago, who was married to a guy who was working towards his IFR rating. He was having 'some difficulties'.

He crashed one plane during his flight school. He crashed another one during his solo. In the same month, he crashed his car, her car, and a rental. None were ruled his fault, but she divorced him anyway just because the whole cost of the rentals, and deductibles were HUGE! He ended up marrying a few months after the divorce was final, and still crashed another plane, and rolled a car. Like, WOW!!! I heard he got his shingle, and was flying IFR in a plane his new wife bought. His ex, the wife's friend, just got tired of worrying about him, and having to help pay for the mess he created. I couldn't imagine that much 'bad luck', and not have it be found to be a serious disease, or drugs. Yikes...

Bad luck, or stupid?
George Pepe 2
Probably a combination of both.
I was just so surprised that with a history like he had, any flight school would allow him to touch any of their planes. I thought it was a great idea that her friend divorced him. He had a huge black cloud over him for some reason, and, wow... It would be cheaper to just say Bye Bye...
still pilot?
Bob Gedemer 2
The biggest failure ...

Common Sense!

Absolutely none was shown in this story.
Michael Beach 2
This idiot should be be getting a Darwin Award.
Nope - he lived.

The Darwin Awards are for those people who most spectacularly take themselves out of the gene pool.
Randy Barron 1
Seems like he's the sort that won't quit doing dumb stuff until it does him in.
Jim Ward 2
I think he should take up a new hobby.
ceoch255 2
I'm not a pilot, but before this man even took off for the first time he should have seen the plane had issues! The seller Swann said after the first bad landing "it would have been worse if he hadn’t installed a block of wood under the front of the plane, and that two inches of solid oak took the brunt of the impact." So the plane had a chunk of wood to protect it on impact? Jeez.
darjr26 3
Coming to a theater near you, “7 days and 7 crashes”, starring Harrison Ford as Dennis Collier.
Mark Storm 1
tom gillett 3
The lawyers that wrote FAA order 8020c would agree that ‘incidents’ 1 to 6 were not “crashes.” But sinking the plane certainly qualifies as “substantial.” Fir me the point of Colier’s saga is be aware that when you are piloting there can be some really incompetent ‘pilots’ near you in the air.
I'm no FAA guy, but if I recall correctly, wouldn't being sunk in a lake be called a "hull loss?" ;-)
Randy Barron 2
Landing with gear up is not a "crash"? Who knew?
ADXbear 3
Outrageous to continue to fly that POS.. he has no right to rish lives on the ground.. why didn't he perform an extensive pretty flight? He's luck to be alive, but the FAA really needs to question this 88 yr Olds jusgement and fitness to fly.
eccsandiego 16
I thought the 88-y-o is the guy who sold it to him?

“Then there’s the 88-year-old [retired] pilot who built the airplane and sold it to Collier…

“On June 25, Collier flew commercial, landing at Los Angeles’ LAX where Lynn Swann, the retired pilot, airplane builder and self-described grumpy old man’ who’d advertised the Seawind 3000 for sale, was there to meet him.”
Nothing more foolish than an old fool?

Related: When I was looking for a new house, I went through what seemed like hundreds of homes, and the 'work' done by owners to 'fix' issues with their homes were so horrific! In one case the owner smeared drywall compound on DUCT TAPE that was installed to fill a gap in the drywall they installed! OMG! And another house had really skeptical wiring and installation of the wire. The owner carved grooves in the drywall to insert the wire, and then just ladled an apparent ton of compound to 'fix' that damage, without taping them, dozens of them. The seams were all over the place. The asking price was so high, I told the agent 'Good luck getting that price!'. And buying a self-built plane would be the last thing I'd consider. Hard pass... That's why owners should never do their own maintenance. Yeah, just say no...
Gregg Bender 7
The only way is buy and fly any airplane is if it had been inspected nose to tail by a mechanic and signed off as safe. Homebuilt or factory built doesn't matter.
I'd tell this clown to drive home, but he'd probably wreck his car, too.
You are correct. When I purchased my plane, I had a pre-purchase inspection performed by a shop that didn't normally look at the plane. We identified some discrepancies and got them resolved. Then I took it to a "company" shop, and spent more money getting a harder look.

It's an airplane. Aviation isn't dangerous - but it is completely insensitive to pilot stupidity.
And 'stupid hurts'. Oh boy does it!!!
Home built planes are just as safe and good as factory planes - and some of them are much nicer. There are regulations that have to be complied with and inspections.

This pilot failed the airplane, both in buying it without a pre-purchase inspection, getting the plane into inspection (by performing an annual, which is required yearly) before trying to fly it, and by continuing to fly the plane when it showed it had significant issues.

Most if not ALL the problems that plagued this flight would have been found by a good mechanic during an annual inspection.
JW Wilson 1
Skydiving would not be a suitable substitute for this "pilot."
I've never seen so many comments here.
A sign in 10' tall letters pointing to him -Here is STUPID.
No cheese left.
dizzy donmez 1
Did he think this was the old MS Flight Simulator, Crash... Splash... respawn and Meigs and do it again!
Craig Good 1
Nearly terminal case of get-there-itis.

Persistence in aviation is often not a virtue.
When he got to California and first looked over the plane, he should have walked away and got on another commercial flight back home. At worst, he might have lost his $4,000 deposit, but he would not have risked his own life, the plane and possibly the lives of others on the ground.
D. W. 1
It almost sounds as though this fool thinks he's "cool."

A movie? Riight! But only if Peter Sellers or Harpo Marx could be resurrected.
George Pepe 1
This reminds me of the saying “24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case...” (fill in the rest)
Tom MacKinnon 1
$ = Common sense
Alan Perry 1
“coincidentally, the filming location of “Airport ’74,” where Charlton Heston saved the passengers. It's also the filming location for the sequel to “Airport.””

The film was “Airport ‘75”, not “Airport ‘74” and it WAS the sequel to “Airport”.
garritt 1
just because he could afford to [purchase, has nothing to do with his ability
to fly it
C Anderson 1
I couldn’t find a single thing this guy did right, not one.
ron baird 1
Cheated death again!
His middle name is “Lucky”. He should buy a lottery ticket today.
Too much dollars, and not enough sense.
patrick baker 1
there are plenty of times we observers of the FAA are left shaking our heads, as in "are we all looking at the same occurrence?". THis character is waving enough red flags and crashing more than enough times for the FAA to rouse from its slumber, and saunter over and ground this guy and pull the certificate of both pilot and aircraft. It must be the plan to raise this aircraft and attempt more flights. It would be consistent with mr collier's modus operandi to strap in and tempt the fates yet once again. Love to be a fly on the wall if collier were to submit an insurance claim, because his insurance ought to have been null and void after the second crash, and surely after subsequent crashes. Faa violations: he must have committed a few. What are the authorities waiting for? enough already.....No licensed mechanical inspection after an incident nulls out the hull and liability coverages. Doesn't it????
corinne115 1
The article states that he did not have insurance.
Michael Gaff -7
All of the bureaucrats in the our government spend much time looking at the countdown clock to their pensions. They are all very highly paid, cannot be fired, and couldn't care less about their sworn responsibilities.
Randy Marco 1
Wrong... but that describes trumpf except add corruption and sedition!
William Brown 1
Unbelievable. Until his luck improves, I would not want to find myself holding a ticket as a fellow passenger with him even on a commercial flight.
The wife said that she would never fly on a plane that I was piloting.

With wives like that, who needs enemies?

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Frank Harvey 5
I didn't notice any reference to and "Trumps", single or plural, in the posted article. Was this reference in a different article about this incident to the one that was posted here ?
btweston -7
No, he was making a point about stupid people. You seem to have missed it.
Cleffer 8
He was trying to drag politics into an article that had nothing to do about politics. We can do without that, please and thank you. There's enough hate in the world from both sides and I'm tired of it.
You have to pass a 'test', and an FAA check ride. There are, apparently, so many people that could pass damn near any test they are placed in front of, but faking a physical test, a 'can you do it' test, is really hard. So many people fail their check ride. Faking literal knowledge is easy, faking practical knowledge is harder. I feel for FAA flight examiners who have given their lives while 'examining' potential pilots. What a way to go... To have a dumb as a stump idiot who would need a YouTube video to change a light bulb, but could pass any written test because of an eidetic memory.

There are people that memorize entire books. Pass a test? Yep. Pass a practical exam? Probably not. They *remember* the book, they don't *learn* the book...
A pity that they don't do a 'common sense' test.
Captaindl -3
Dennis Collier would make a great NASA test pilot. He has what it takes, a little bit crazy and a lot of guts. If I was still around NASA I'd hire him tomorrow.
Bill Butler 3
I think you just insulted every NASA pilot, test and otherwise!
This guy showed nothing but poor judgment, starting with buying an airplane for $110K sight unseen. Not the kind of thing you want in test pilots, and you hiring him would just show poor judgment on your part.
Captaindl -1
Oh, I am happy to see we have someone who knows what NASA wants in a test pilot. How long were you a test pilot for NASA James? What year did you graduate from the Aerospace Research Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, CA? You do know that is the school that supplies most of the test pilots for NASA? I'm just curious where you got your knowledge of what NASA wants in a test pilot.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Karl Scribner 1
You’d never hear about it if he had been
Frank Harvey -7
I haven't been able to get this remarkable series of 1920s barnstorming like incidents out of my mind for the last few hours. It reminds me of stories about "Grumman" bush pilots in South America operating out of some of the small artificially extended lakes and rivers in the 1950s and 60s.

In actual fact the pilot, Collier, overcame each of the difficulties he encountered enroute and was able to successfully patch up his kite to continue his journey, almost to completion. Many long-distance aviation pioneers had similar series of failures and near disasters but were deemed heroic on completing their journeys.

Collier's final difficulty may have been equally non-disastrous had the FAA not requested he keep the landing gear extended on this leg. It seems that he was skimming the water with the amphibian in a potentially successful landing just before the wheels dug in. Initially the a/c floated and took a while to sink. Perhaps the penetration of the hull which permitted water ingress, occurred on this occasion, not previously. He had demonstrated successful landing ability in adverse circumstances earlier when he had landed at night on an unfamiliar field in reduced illumination and without a landing light.

Perhaps, had he been able to restart the engine, he could even have taxied to the shallows and been able to keep this resilient bird alive for further adventures.
chapmad 11
Blaming the FAA for the failed ditching is like blaming a stop light for an accident caused by a drunk driver. There’s nothing brave or romantic about this story. In the modern era, the amount of risk taken on by Collier and his demonstrably poor judgment should not be defended. While Collier was within his rights to repair the aircraft on his own, as it was experimental, the series of landing accidents point to major deficiencies in pilot skill or in the construction of the aircraft itself, or perhaps a combination. That Collier’s motivation for writing a diary was described as being motivated by the imagined potential for a movie deal tells you everything you need to know about this reckless guy.
Peter Fuller 10
Whether the gear was left down or retracted, the fact remains that he departed after 7pm, with maybe two hours of daylight left, in a balky single-engine airplane, intending to cross 60 miles or so of open water. Not too smart. This guy is lucky he lived to tell the tale.
Michael Gaff -1
Who cares? What a great story. I hope this crap keeps happening.
John Ward -1
Shame, I can't read this story as there appears to be some EU legislation stopping me! They are just been cantankerous because I live in the UK!
pagheca 2
try with a VPN set to USA. It works...
David Westner 2
try this link, it should work in the EU (hopefully anyway)
Atanu Dey 1
John Ward:

Here's a link that Mark Harris posted above
pagheca -1
yes, your country voted to reject EU, including his legislation and the GDPR.
pagheca 0
sorry, I was wrong. Actually I do not know why the GDPR still apply to UK. Probably your country maintained it, no idea.
John Ward -7
We didn't reject the EEC, we left! Totally different set of circumstances! Still, you are probably an American and therefore wouldn't understand!🤔
rqdrqd 4
Americans did the first Brexit.
corinne115 2
Why the hell can't I get more info from France based on the followinf excuse : "We recognize you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore access cannot be granted at this time"

Is it that France no longer belongs to the EU ? Did we make "Frexit" ? Pls advise.
Scott Pond 2
The reason is simple. The EU rightly or wrongly is attempting to enforce GDPR privacy requirements outside its borders. You as an EU resident have specific privacy rights. There are a number of companies who do not do business within the EU and don’t want or need to invest in the overhead of maintaining a GDPR compliance structure. So they geo-locate your IP, determine that you are in the EU and block you. The company can’t be fined or at least be threatened if you don’t have access.
Frank Harvey 2
Hi Scott. Thanks for this explanation of how some companies who are outside the EU have chosen to avoid being fined by the EU. Now I understand why some links I've sent to people don't work for them but do for me.
WhiteKnight77 1
Try copying the link to the article and paste it into an Incognito window of Chrome.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

FAwareM -1
Only seven incidents in seven days? I'm sorry, but I don't quite understand the newsworthiness of this particular article. Is there something unique/unusual about it?
AWAAlum 0
FAwareM -1
I'm guessing that obvious sarcasm pretty much escapes you.
AWAAlum 1
Some of the postings, some similar to yours, are made in utmost seriousness. Therefore, even though you may have meant yours to be "obvious" - to me, it "obviously" wasn't. There's no need to be so defensive. Just stating it was meant to be sarcasm would have sufficed. Try being a nicer human.
FAwareM 0
D Rotten -9
Interesting!! Had he been injected with the EXPERIMENTAL Bio-weapon Injection?? Those WILL give one a sort of 'mad cow disease'!! They DO mess with ones MENTAL capabilities.
bosquetia -2
Any chance he purposely ditched it for insurance??
corinne115 5
End of story says he did not have insurance.
Mike Garrison 3
LOL. That would be perfectly logical for this guy, given the fact the plane was not insured (per the article).
Cibrut Turbic -3
I wonder what critical data that newspaper website tries to pull from my PC. It says it can't let me to view content because of EU's GDPR. What kind of shady newspaper's web is that? :/
James Cross 1
GDPR even covers your IP address, so it's not really "critical data"... Just a ridiculously strict and overreaching law.
Yes, and no. The problem with American laws is that you have no control over anything you post. The GDPR appears to give you the power over 'your' data. If you want to disappear, you have the right to have ALL of your data scrubbed from a website. It has happened on a site that I administer. The host required that all websites they support also support the GDPR regulations. We enabled the ability to scrub all posts and comments made by an account holder, and a few months later got a request from the next of kin of a member. *ZAP*, the routines worked as planned, and ALL of their data was scrubbed. I couldn't get the Facebook account of my Mom scrubbed from their site after she died, no matter what I did. It's 'archived', but apparently can't be deleted. What a crock!!! She's DEAD! Wipe it... Zuckerburg says 'NO!'.
Are you using a VPN connected through a European server?

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Frank Harvey 9
I didn't notice Collier's (the actual pilot) age mentioned. It seemed that the seller, Lynn Swann (a "retired pilot") was the 88 year old.
KatzyBaby 2
From his picture with the article, he doesn't look like a spring chicken. Not 88, but certainly over 60. Of course, idiocy is not age-related.
When I first saw the name Lynn Swann I thought of the retired football player lol


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