AOPA Pilot Magazine - July 2013 - 96
My time flying crop dusters was paying off; I had the
Mooney tickling right at the edge of a stall.
Experience tells you when you can do no more.
had only seconds to react. At that moment,
I uttered the most desperate prayer of my
life. God, I don’t know if I have the skills to
get out of this. I need help.
Some of the most perplexing accident
reports are those of small airplanes flying
straight down so fast that the wings are
ripped off. It never made sense until that
moment. They had plenty of airspeed—it
was not displaying.
The realization saved my life. I struggled against ingrained training to lower
the nose. In those few seconds, I experienced complete sensory overload and
faced the growing prospect of losing selfcontrol. If I could control my emotions,
the aircraft could fly.
An airliner began to relay radio calls
because my transmissions were getting
weaker. And then the engine sputtered.
I jammed the mixture full rich. It didn’t
help, and the engine quit.
“Fort Worth, Eight-Eight-Six, I’ve lost
my engine.” My voice revealed that I was
fraying at the edges.
I could hear the discussion about me;
it seemed the controller, the airline pilot—
and maybe even I—did not believe I would
My voice was shaking and uncertain,
“American uhhh,” I could not remember his number, “American, can you
have ummm…Fort Worth give me a vector to Childress…and I am declaring an
Thoughts began to crowd my mind—
that I would not get to see our grandkids
grow up; I would not get to spend my
golden years with Cynthia.
I shouted commands to myself. “Snap
out of this. Trust God. Just fly the airplane,
The airline captain relayed that
the sheriff had been notified; I was too
despondent to answer. I didn’t want my
aircraft wreckage to be found by a Texas
The controller told me to continue the
turn. I was exiting the storm but was IFR
without power at 13,000 feet. Landing
without power, without a runway, is harrowing in daytime. At night, survival is
rare. Don’t panic. Just fly the aircraft. All
my thoughts had been distilled to those
two simple commands.
After almost 7,000 feet in a controlled
descent, I broke out at 5,100 feet above
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