Saturday, May 3, 2014

Night Flight: Wind Shear

Image: Google Maps
Another night, another crazy story. I'm little surprised to write these flight stories. I have not flown in a long time and, though I loved every minute of it, I had many reasons for stopping. A large part financial, a little bit of what was the end goal of all this flying, and the overwhelming reality of my own mortality. So, with that in mind, here's another tale from my night flight adventures.

This time we had gone flying about 4am. My instructor was with me as was a friend in the back seat, mostly dozing, after realizing that flying at 4am is still 4am and he would have rather been in bed.

We had done a bunch of flying around St. John's, Mount Pearl, and Conception Bay. I recall we were doing some extra Limited Flight Rules (where we practiced flying into clouds with a contraption that limited your view to the cockpit dash instruments). We were on our way back just before sunrise and the sky was starting to lighten to a shade of dull bluish-grey.

We were on approach just coming towards Major's Path to land on runway 34.

We could see the end of the runway and were coming in a little high. Just before we would start to bleed off speed and height to land a little shorter, the plane was flipped to the left like Godzilla had swatted our left wingtip.

That someone was a wind shear. My instructor grabbed the yoke (control/stick for airplane) and yelled "I have control!" (the command to indicate you want control of the plane). I don't remember if he told me to grab the stick or I just did not let go but we both pushed on the yoke together, fighting the accelerating drop we were doing on our left side.

Looking out the cockpit, the world was perpendicular to our forward/falling motion. You could see the grass and bushes at the end of the runway rushing up to fill the windshield. It was surreal how fast shit can go wrong. And this shit was going wrong, very fast.

Fighting the stick was like pushing Justin Beiber through a pack of fans. Time slowed down as we pushed the yoke slowly to bring the plane back to level. This all happening in what seemed a slow motion eternity but in fact only lasting seconds.

We leveled the plane above the fence at the end of the runway, no longer high, and scraped along the top of the ground to land right at the end of the runway.

My friend in the back had woken up and was all, "WTF just happened!"

Nothing big really, we just decided to bleed off 400 feet in the fastest way possible, by going sideways.

It was a real elevator ride to the runway. Luckily there were two of us in the front able to grab the yoke and wrestle the plane back to level for a smooth touchdown.

All of us were shaken up. Mostly my instructor and myself who had witnessed and pulled our ass out of the event. My buddy was all groggy and still not in touch with how serious it was.

For a while some people would ask me why didn't I keep up my flying. I never really answered, but this is one of those reasons.

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