Any Landing You Can Walk Away From…

Ok, P. this one’s for you (I hope it’s ok…), and T., too:

            “Do you want to fly today, or not?”

Since he was putting it that way, what could I say?  He did know this plane better than I did, having flown it twice a day all week, and yes, he was the one with over 1000 hours of flight time.  So, who was I to quote a memorized rule book at him, a decorated combat pilot deigning to teach a snot-nosed teenager how to fly?  And for free, no less.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Then let’s go.”

I throttled up, taking over officially as Pilot In Command with the ritual nod to my instructor, and announcing my take off to the open air field, even though no one else was in the pattern.  My fellow students were standing back by the open office door, already pointing and starting to make their critiques, no doubt waiting for my first landing of our touch and go sequence to laugh, as usual.  For the only girl in the advanced group, having passed my FAA written didn’t mean I was lucky to get to fly the 172, and didn’t mean they respected my ability to memorize the manuals, or to tutor ground school.  It meant that the guys in the 150s and the 152 got to ask why I could be so smart, and not land the damned plane after 9 hours of flight time.  So, here we went, again.

“Turning downwind, I have my intended point of touchdown.”

A taciturn nod of the head in that hot and noisy cabin was more than enough to see that the confidence in my landing ability was no better up here than it was down there.  Skidding my turn, yet again, into final approach, I hoped I was judging the distance right.  Flaring at 5 feet was no easy feat when the altimeter is useless from the time you think you’re about to land on the roof of the hangar.  Memorizing two landings manuals and endless discussions of what the sight picture should look like by that point had not helped much, either.  This time I just crabbed into the wind and hoped that the guy standing on the taxiway was close enough to be a good guideline.  Better to flare a bit too close, as long as I got to full stall, than risk bouncing, again.  I’d learned that my own eyes were simply not trustworthy, and so I had to rely on that famous photographic memory from the last time I got yelled at for flaring too high.  Since it always looked like we were about to dig a big hole in the ground, I figured someone would yell at me if I waited too long.

“Take off again.”

Calling in our 4th touch and go, I hoped no one else was waiting for lunch while I logged an extra few minutes of flying time.  The embarrassment of me not soloing would be too much to bear for those who’d put me in this advanced group, so I sent a prayer that my next landing would be a perfect one.  As I rotated and looked ahead toward our emergency landing point, I noticed that things were finally nice and peaceful.  We were only about 300 feet off of the ground, and it was nice and quiet.  Then it hit me.

It was quiet because the engine had died.

I looked down and decided that we couldn’t possibly land, with the little bit of runway remaining below us, but we didn’t have enough altitude to clear those trees, let alone make it to our emergency landing spot.  Just as I was deciding that it was time to call in a Mayday and say my last prayers, the normally slow moving man to my right shot a glance to either side, then shoved the yoke as far forward as it would go.  While my stomach protested as our seat belts held our heads on, I added my weight to his, pushing our 172 back down to the runway, and wondering just how many inches we would have, if we could flare in time.  He waited longer than I’d imagined possible, and then yanked the yoke back all the way to our seats.  Surprised to see our 172 actually responding to controls, I was shocked when we slammed into the ground, and merely rolled as if landing hot.  Evidently, our Cessna did not understand that we were not meant to be back on the runway yet, and obligingly landed just where it was told.  But it did not stop when we told it to.  Two sets of feet pressing desperately against separate brake pedals did nothing to slow our approach toward the large brier patch off the end of the runway.  We kept pressing, slowing down, and then as if tired of all the exertion, the brakes simply gave out.  As we rolled freely forward, feeling the front gear banging into every bush and stump, I called in a “Pan” to the office, letting everyone know that we’d made it to the ground safely, and expected to be able to walk away from this landing, even if our only 172 might need a tow.

“What happened?  Didn’t you do a run-up?”

“I did, but he said to fly anyway.”


“I got a 200 rpm drop on the left magneto, and a 300 rpm drop on the right, but with both mags it ran fine, and he said that it was just like that, and told me to take off!”

“You idiot, girl, you know you should have walked away!”

“But he was yelling at me!”

“Yeah, well how’s that crash landing working out for you?”

This flight scholarship might just not be worth all that, after all, huh?”


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Shira Destinie A. Jones, MPhil

our year 2021 CE =  12021 HE

(Day 1Day 5)

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43 thoughts on “Any Landing You Can Walk Away From…

  1. Just to be clear, you never piloted an airplane again and never intend to, right? This is a scary story, but I couldn’t stop from thinking about the movie “Airplane”. I don’t think the nodding communication between you and the instructor worked. I think you needed Mrs. June Cleaver to translate (watch the movie). Glad you made it to write about it. Surely, you now understand that your photographic memory memorizing the manual is no use when you’re screaming your head off before the potential fireball.
    And don’t call me Shirley!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. No, I do not intend to fly again. And no screaming happened on this flight. I was too busy trying to figure out what to do to be scared. Or like that little Cessna 172, just too tired to be frightened, Shirley.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Laughing. Kind of. The only female under extreme pressure from male peers. How we do things against our better judgment when being yelled at. The guy should be up for disciplinary action. Is this a true story?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Message from ShiraDest:. She says that the reason that this story, like the previous story titled floating, have not been told up to this time have been to as she says protect the guilty. No person of the stature of this instructor could possibly have been disciplined at that time 44 years ago. Much like the impossibility of disciplining those behind the occurrences in the so-called story floating 46 to 47 years ago. One hopes that you human beings have progressed during this time.
      Ranger Mayann for Shira Destinie Jones

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Yes, it is true, but from 1986, and with a legend, so I cannot say more. In any case, the rumor the next year was that he’d gotten too old, failed his BFR (bi-ennial flight medical review), or for some other reason lost his CFI rating, and at least stopped teaching, if not flying.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. This is Ranger Mayann passing a message for Shira, who will reply herself later this evening. Her message is that this is a narrative, of an event which did in fact occur, but could not be told to this point, and still cannot be told, like the previous true story, “Floating,” in an open fashion. Thus it has been couched in the form of a story, yet it is true.

      Liked by 4 people

        1. Well, merely a matter of lots of study, and knowing of the flight scholarship being available. Unfortunately, rather embarrasing not to have soloed in the 10.5 hours of flight time alotted, while a 14 year old kid soloed on only 4 hours! Yes, he was acclaimed as “a natural pilot,” but boy did I catch hell when I got back to DC.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Still, you did it, and it is something to be proud about.
            Years ago, I used to say that I could drive anything that moves on land and water, but I still have to learn two things: to ride a horse and fly a plane. Since then, I did learn to ride a horse (there is a photo somewhere on my blog), but flying a plane is still in the plans.
            Big air hugs,

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Well, bring ear plugs!
              And, I supposed that since I never mastered landings, I never really learned to fly, but with my lack of depth perception, which I discovered when I finally learned to drive a car (at 24 yr old), it’s not a great idea for me to be flying anything, at least as long as I have to be the one landing!

              Liked by 2 people

            2. But you did learn to fly, and who cares about landing! I am kidding, of course, but you have mastered most of the skills, so minus one is only an A-. This is what I tell my students.
              Big air hugs,

              Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you, Dolly, but I don’t feel awesome. I feel like I’m just steps away from failing at everything, and only moments away from giving up, much of the time, while merely struggling to contribute something to that work from which we are not allowed to desist

          Thank you for your encouragement,

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Well, now I do see those steps which I can see clearly help in teaching others as achievement, so I guess that is a start.

              Todah Rabah ve Bruchah Tihi, Dolly.

              Liked by 2 people

  3. I was reminded of a scene from Hubris and Hemlock while reading this. Not exactly the same story, but certainly the fear. I sensed it was based in some personal experience.
    I know it’s from a long time ago, but Hugs, if wanted. And Hugs for having to keep a secret for so long.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes, the panic attacks keep growing in H and H, and I was hoping to raise a bit of awareness of that, and how PTSD acquired in childhood is different from that of combat vets.
      “…secrets long kept…” as Lenier said earlier in S1…

      Thank you for those hugs,

      Liked by 3 people

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