AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 101

GET THE
As Arnold acknowledged the transmission, I thought, OK, this is it. Just 10 more
minutes, and it will all be over.
The thought was broken by an expletive coming from the left seat, in response
to an absence of the familiar green lights
that indicate that all three gear are down
and locked. That reaction was accompanied by red lights flashing and an
unbelievably loud and persistent warning horn coming from the airplane itself.
In response to Arnold's request to have
the tower visually confirm gear up or down
in the final phase of our approach, came
the cautious response that the worsening
visibility might not allow for such a check.
I braced for the worst as we descended
toward what I trusted was the runway,
consoling myself with the thought that
no matter what, it would all be over soon.
Minutes seemed to stretch into hours.
What I didn't expect was what came
next. When the tower could not confirm
the position of the gear, the controller
directed us to climb and circle to the left
at 2,000 feet for another approach while
he cleared the area.
Climb! How was that possible? With
the accumulating ice, our airspeed in
straight and level flight with full throttle
was down to 100 knots. Lifting the nose
for a climb was out of the question.
This time the controller was not calling the shots. With his shoulders heaving
up and down, Arnold told me, " No way are
we climbing. We're going to do what we
have to do to stay in the air. " He banked
the airplane gently and held our 1,000foot altitude as we circled back toward the
final approach fix for the active runway.
For the first time, I found myself wondering about those people who say that
their lives flashed before their faces in
moments of impending death. Why wasn't
mine? I tried to force myself into some
final thoughts, believing that the next 20
minutes could be our last. It didn't help to
have the panel lit up with warning lights,
the gear warning horn still blaring, and
the stall warning sounding intermittently.

I braced myself for the
worst as we descended
toward what I trusted
was the runway,
consoling myself with
the thought that no
matter what, it would
all be over soon.
The sound of my dad still snapping pictures from the back seat only added to a
sense of confusion and anxiety.
Final descent-again-and thankfully,
the ground! Feeling the gear absorb the landing, softened by about four inches of fresh
snow, was an unexpected treat. The gear
itself had not frozen-simply the switch.
As we taxied off the runway, the
action was outside the airplane rather
than inside. The emergency vehicles and
fire trucks escorted us in, with rotating lights and intermittent sirens cutting
through the blowing snow. Ice was falling off the wings in large chunks, and the
controller was instructing us about completing the necessary paperwork for our
declared emergency. And my father was
still recording the event for posterity.
A few drinks later, the event was
history. But the lessons from it have
continued to inform our flying and our
appreciation for what " pilot in command "
actually means. When ATC denied the
request to stay at our current altitude,
that was the time to declare an emergency.
My dad and his recordings are no longer
with us, but the primary takeaway has
strengthened our understanding of pilot
in command when it matters most; and we
recognize to this day that what didn't kill
us did, in fact, make us stronger, betterprepared pilots.
AOPA
CHARMIAN SPERLING is an instrument-rated

private pilot living in Lincoln, Massachusetts,
who flies a Piper Meridian and a Cessna 150.

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AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 4
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 5
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 6
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 7
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover4
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