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My Flight Experience II
Dated: July 4 2016
I thought I'd write about these events more quickly, but time slipped away.
In the spring of 1987 two of my friends bought a small airplane, single prop with retractable landing gear. We needed to travel to Longview, TX for business. Somehow word got out that we were going to fly in Dale & Don;s plane rather than drive the 4-5 hours. We were told that we shouldn't fly due to corporate insurance rules. After a short discussion we decided to fly anyway.
I arrived at the Killeen, TX airport as agreed. The weather was perfect. Dale & Don had flown their plane just a few times and never on a cross country (within state) trip, about 286 miles. Another friend, Bill, who is a very experienced pilot joined us for obvious reasons. Don took the pilot seat for the flight to Longview with Bill in the co-pilot seat. Don & Bill went through the pre flight stuff and we taxied out to the runway. Don hit the throttle and off we went. It was awesome, flying low enough to see landmarks along the way as well as the countryside.
After about 45 minutes Bill asked Don & Dale if they had practiced using the emergency procedures to put the landing gear down in the event of hydraulic failure. Of course they had not so Bill suggested they do that right now while we had plenty of time. Bill proceeds to get the instruction manual out and he disables the hydraulic pump. Honestly this made me a little nervous but I held my thoughts inside my head. What could go wrong?
Don assembles the pump handle so he can hand pump the hydraulic fluid to put the landing gear down. Smooth as silk! Don pumps the handle a few times as I gaze out the window and see the landing gear appear, mission accomplished. Bill instructs Don on how to put the gear pack up when they declare the procedure to be over. Wait, I can still see the landing gear but now it's not all the way down or up, stuck in the middle. Bill says of no problem, just get the pump activated again and the gear will fold back up. Nope, the gear won't move at all! Now I am real nervous to say the least. After several attempts to correct the situation Bill says just pump the gear back down and while we are in our meeting he'll get a mechanic to look at it in Longview. Gear down all seems right...then Bill says wait the gear locked light isn't on. It should indicate the gear is locked and stable in the down position. After trying to no avail Bill says we are going to have to land trusting that the landing gear will withstand the impact of landing. No matter how much he says he's sure they will work I am now scared, not nervous. His next action didn't make me feel better...he radioed the Longview airport requesting emergency personal to be on site just in case things didn't go well for us. Thanks Bill!
Remember when I said we were advised not to fly in a private plane? Apparently the commotion we cause at this small town's airport spread quickly. Upon arriving at our meeting I was confronted about how I got to the meeting. Now I was Busted and still a little scared. The plane was attend to on the ground and we flew home without further incident.
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