It’s gonna stay windy this coming weekend, but highs up around eighty will keep things comfy out on the flight line. NOTE: We’ll be closed Sunday (May 8) and the next Friday (May 14). Who knows, after that the wind may be ready to take a rest…
When I took primary glider training 47 years ago we discussed emergency procedures once, briefly, but that was it. From there forward, while occasionally wondering what might really happen when ‘it’ hit the fan, I never did get around to procuring more dual… (Still haven’t, truth be known.)
As time goes on without an actual emergency a peculiar thing happens. One part of the brain begins to assume it may never occur, gradually diminishing its perceived importance, while another part periodically reminds you that something bad will eventually happen. And each additional safe passage only brings that fateful reckoning closer.
My introduction to actual emergencies (like all my training beyond the absolute minimum) amounted to self-training. OJT, for better or worse. I was already a low-time instructor, with two passengers in back of a 2-32 when I went to open spoilers and the handle wouldn’t budge. Turned out that guy on the port side was so big his leg prohibited even rotating the brake handle to unlock it.
Suddenly it was time to try something I’d heard of but never witnessed, the infamous no-spoiler landing. Fortunately ’32s are plenty draggy and easy to land in any case, but they also happen to be very reluctant slippers. Having no choice, I mixed full left pedal with a little right stick to see how it would work. The airspeed indicator was rendered useless by sidewise airflow, but I just pushed over until it felt a bit too fast, then backed off slightly.
Steady steady steady, and sure, it worked out fine. Surprisingly easy in fact, but in a slicker ship I might still be floating up the runway in ground effect, even now…
So from that day on I always emphasized preparing (myself and students) for what could happen, because chances are it eventually will. At this point I’ve experienced so many takeoff and landing emergencies that, though they’re never quite welcome, I have to admit they’re usually kind of fun!
Uh oh, now I’ll spend the rest of my life worrying that I’ve just conjured some kind of jinx…
We’ve all heard many times that aircraft can stall in any attitude and at any speed. What’s seldom mentioned, however, you can recover from a stall in any attitude too — given enough airspeed. If this seems immaterial, or even dubious, read on.
I was up once with a video camera on the instrument panel pointed forward, looking for action. Suddenly here came another glider crossing paths some hundreds of feet below, near enough for an interesting shot if I could reposition in time. I swung away in a sharp spilt-S, intentionally falling behind and below the bogey, then zoomed up on its six with energy to burn.
Though fully capable of this maneuver, I had never practiced with a ‘live’ target. Turned out I dove a bit too far and gathered more speed than necessary, so had to pull up hard to not pass under it. And that’s a textbook prescription for an accelerated stall.
Every pilot knows what ordinary stalls feel like, and we don’t normally associate them with high speeds and heavy Gs, but the camera doesn’t lie. Video shows my bogey coming into view from above, appearing to shudder as it falls off the bottom of the screen during the stall like the old combat footage, then smoothly back to center screen after recovery.
Keep in mind, the other aircraft was operating smoothly, straight and level the whole time; it’s my ship that shuddered. When the stall began I was pitched up 35 degrees or more at about a hundred knots, and remained well above level (still climbing) afterward. The stall scrubbed just the right amount of excess energy, enabling a momentary pause to paint that rapidly growing target with imaginary tracers before lofting above it again. Kaboom.
Now think what might have happened if I had not recognized the stall and recovered from it. Impossible to know with any precision, but my glider would have continued upward toward the victim several seconds longer, slowing but effectively out of control, and…
The ugly truth is, that other pilot was entirely oblivious of peril in which further misjudgment on my part, or a botched recovery, could have risked deadly collision… And there’s no stenciling a kill on your nose cone if it is what makes the kill.
This is exactly why FAR 91.111 requires PRIOR ARRANGEMENT before flying near any other aircraft!! Say what you will, some rules make pretty good sense.