Ground effect, huh? Well if you’ve read this far you asked for it.

We hear of ground effect most often as the excuse for pilots landing long. That’s their problem; it is predictable after all. Yet beyond this aspect there seems an unofficial a taboo against even discussing ground effect. One reason, zero margin. Another, in gliders it leads to an immediate dead end and we can’t have that kind of dynamite around sensible traffic. Bottom line, fooling with ground effect is something responsible pilots just don’t do.

In our predicament however, nothing else in all the world will work, so we get to bite the silver bullet.

And who’da thunk it, more of my young adulthood was misspent in ground effect than anyone but a crop duster should ever experience. Countless times in the early years I ‘experimented’, always over quiet runways or somewhere off the downwind end. Time was, I got away with monkey business like dipping out of sight beyond a neighbor’s pasture, reappearing to zoom up over an abandoned barn, then down below runway level again before pulling full spoilers to dump speed at the numbers.

I choreographed those hot dog approaches because people were watching — and ultimately STOPPED for that very same reason. The door slammed when some rambunctious power jockey tried to mimic my stunt and bricked his pull up… No more for me please.

Point is though, in all the hijinks I never did max out my credit. How much more was really in reserve? Here at last a reason to pull that string and see.

As many lines close in the dial’s center;
so may a thousand actions end in one purpose,
and be all well borne without defeat.


For best results you gotta get really LOW, and it helps to be FAST. Diving from a few hundred feet to as close as we dare accomplishes both in seconds while consuming much of the distance. Mile and a half to go. Everything’s blurred at two hundred feet a second, but hugging brush after hopping Joshuas grows easier as speed bleeds away…

Turns out the nearest corner of our airport is where the little crosswind strip begins so we’re already lined up on it! No power line to worry about, but as a gesture to Homeland Security (no seriously!) one stupid strand of rusty barbed wire does wait unseen to decapitate anyone sneaking in too low.

Under eighty now, we’re almost there. Glance around and both angels are cheering like proud parents in the bleachers — until they both begin to cringe… WTF?

Oh yes, gear down FOOL!

The live or die threshold rises to meet us but no need to pull up, clearing one last Joshua took care of that. Our problem here is excess speed. Once over the airport we raise only our left wing, crack spoilers and turn onto the main runway… eventually touching down well beyond where I normally do.

After decades begging everyone to land at the numbers, now I can’t eventually do it myself! Ah well.

“Here, take over,” I sigh, “I got sump’n to do.” Accomplice is still rolling off the runway as I open the aft canopy and begin creaking out. Our wheel hasn’t been stopped two seconds before I’m kneeling to kiss the Fat Lady’s dusty face, because on this day only now can she begin to sing.

Burnt lips are a price gladly paid for blessings such as these. And guess what, we got our trailer tires aired up in the bargain! Securing the bird, we look northwest where we came from and see our great glowing source settle itself into the darkened skyline just above where trusty Silver Queen lies hidden in deepening dusk.