Maj. Buck DeWeese talks about his harrowing experience handling a Delta Airlines Boeing 757 when a spoiler deployed shortly after takeoff.
Photo by Capt. David Small Jr., South Dakota Wing
Capt. David Small Jr.
Lookout Mountain Composite Squadron
South Dakota Wing
SOUTH DAKOTA – Maj. Rodney "Buck" DeWeese, South Dakota Wing director of aerospace education and Lookout Mountain Composite Squadron aerospace education officer, has been honored with the Air Line Pilots Association’s prestigious International Superior Airmanship Award for his handling of a serious incident after takeoff in Hawaii.
The award recognizes DeWeese’s actions while piloting a Delta Airlines flight Oct. 4, 2010, from Honolulu to San Francisco.
The citation on the award, signed by the association’s president, Lee Moak, reads:
For demonstrating superior airmanship on October 4, 2010. You departed Honolulu International Airport at night in a Boeing 757 and had a right spoiler which remained deployed shortly after takeoff. Despite the extremely challenging handling conditions of the aircraft and the lack of checklist guidance, you successfully managed the emergency, kept the aircraft under control, and returned the aircraft to Honolulu for a safe landing. You exemplify the best in our profession.
Not mentioned in the award citation is what happened after the safe landing in Honolulu.
Because the plane’s spoiler deployed immediately after takeoff, when the plane was still heavily laden with fuel at an altitude of only 400 feet l, trying to land was futile until most of the fuel had been burned off.
Accordingly, DeWeese piloted the stricken 757 over Hawaiian waters for several hours of very turbulent flying to lighten the fuel load. After landing, the airliner’s brakes had to cool for nearly half an hour before passengers were allowed off.
When DeWeese addressed the stressed passengers, he offered them the option of taking off right away in an alternate 757 ready for flight. In a credit to the pilot’s professionalism and demeanor, all but two of the more than 200 passengers, as well as all of the flight crew, chose to continue on to San Francisco.
Norman Mineta, the nation’s secretary of transportation from 2000-2006, presented the award during the association’s 58th annual Air Safety Forum banquet in Washington, D.C. The Air Line Pilots Association represents more than 53,000 commercial pilots working for 39 US and Canadian Airlines.