I Learned About Flying
From That ...
It was during one of those
beautiful Minnesota evenings that live in one’s memory
that I flew a low pass at AgAir10. After clearing the
field, I slowly throttled up to begin a big lazy
chandelle. Suddenly the engine quit (a failure of the
reed valve due to a cracked gasket, I learned later).
No airspeed, no altitude, the runway behind and the sky
above — the classic engine-out dilemma.
I decided that my best
option was to U-turn and land downwind. So I did what I
usually do before landings, I lowered the gear and
dropped the flaps. Then I realized that I didn’t have
enough altitude for flaps, so I raised the flaps while
continuing the downwind turn. By then the airplane was
on the verge of a stall so I pushed the nose down and
dove for the runway. The plane picked up speed and
cleared the edge of the runway so closely that I saw the
plane’s shadow pass by on a bush just inches below. The
landing was fast but okay, rolling nearly the entire
length of the field. No harm done.
Joe Grice was there,
watching the entire event. He has been flying since he
was 17. He is a senior airline pilot and a better stick
than I can ever hope to be. So I sought his advice.
“Joe,” I said. “I just
barely made the runway. Perhaps I should have waited to
drop the flaps and gear until just before touchdown.”
“No,” he replied without
hesitation. “In this situation, you did the right
thing. It’s best to get the airplane configured for
landing as soon as possible so you can concentrate
entirely on the approach. Flicking switches at the last
second would have left no room for error.”