True Confessions

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This page is dedicated to allowing pilots to tell their tale of getting away with something that could have cost them their plane, their license, or their life.

The postings are intended to be informative, and cautionary to others. The submitter may identify themselves, or post anonymously by allowing one of the moderators to place the text on the page, thus preventing others from looking in the "History" of the Wiki to see who made a particular modification.

Please take the stories in the spirit they are offered, that we might all learn from someone's mistake and thus avoid putting ourselves in that position in the future.

At the suggestion of one of the submitters, I've rearranged the Confessions so that the most recent one goes at the top.

Next True Confession Goes Here

Orange Airplane Fuel Starvation Incident

On April 20, 2003, I had a scary fuel starvation incident flying the orange airplane, my '71 AA1A. Read the full story on my web site.

An Elevating Experience

After a long weekend, I was returning to my home airport which had a bit of a crosswind. My landing a bit sloppy and I was sure I could do better. So instead of turning to my tie-down area, and despite being tired, I decided to practice crosswind landings. I taxied back and as I started down the runway, something very unusual happened.I lifted off way too early. My airspeed was low but I was climbing like an elevator. I pushed the nose down hard to gain airspeed but continued to climb like crazy. I was sure I set the trim correctly, and verified the indicator was in the takeoff range. However, a quick check out the window confirmed I just took off with Full Flaps. Once I had enough speed I retracted the flaps and landed fine, and on the way back to my car I walked the long way around, avoiding the FBO area in case someone noticed.

Lost in Colorado

My private pilot instruction was interrupted by a job transfer from Georgia to Denver Colorado, so I needed more dual instruction to become familiar with a new aircraft and the new terrain. The school plane was an old Warrior that seemed neglected, as most students preferred the newer Cessnas. But I knew I would someday own a Grumman, so I preferred training in planes with the wings mounted correctly, (i.e. low wing).

Having worked my way back up to solo, it was time to do my first solo cross country in the area. This would be my first time venturing away from the Denver area, so I picked an airport just 51 miles away (KLIC). There weren't too many landmarks on my course, but I found a small river and a couple of towers that were in my path. A VOR station was right in the middle so I carefully calculated the TO/FROM vectors. In addition, I dutifully worked the winds, magnetic variations, etc. and set off for my first solo cross country in Colorado.

I was very pleased with by dead reckoning as the VOR indicator was right in the middle. However I failed to spot any of my landmarks. The river, it turned out, was a dry riverbed and the towers were too small to be distinguished from the landscape. Having passed my midway point, I waited for the VOR indicator to flip as I passed the station. It did not change at all! I checked and double checked the frequency but nothing. I had no landmarks, no VOR and my dead reckoning was off. I was lost! How was I going to find this tiny airport now?

Well, I cheated. One week before this flight, I bought a Garmin 296 and stuffed it in my flight bag, just in case. I really did not intend to use it at all, but I sure needed some help. It turned out I wasn't too far off course, but given the lack of landmarks in the area, I probably would have passed right by the destination airport. I later found out that the VOR receiver was inoperable, but the instructor forgot to notify me, and there was no INOP label on the VOR.

After that incident, I decided that I would always know the full condition of the aircraft I was flying, and one way to do that is to own the airplane. So just a few weeks later, I bought my first aircraft, a Grumman of course, with a functional VOR, and my trusty 296 mounted on the yoke.

Should have gone around, but didn't...

My story also concerns go-arounds - the one I should have made and did not. Soloed but not yet licensed, I'd spent the day practicing crosswind landings. Hopped over to a nearby field, hillier and different terrain than my home field. On descent to the runway, it's rough and wild. Too wild for my skill level. Just before touchdown, correcting for left crosswind, I notice the two windsocks, one at each end of the field, pointing in different directions. Right at touchdown, suddenly it's all from the right. My nose swings hard left as the wheels touch and just like that I'm off the runway, into a shallow field of small boulders separating the taxiway from the runway. A few wild bounces later, somehow without dragging a wing or flipping, the plane bounds out of the boulder field onto the taxiway. The only physical damage was one torn wheelpant. What really suffered was my confidence. After waiting for the winds to subside, I somehow took off and got it home, but resolved never to fly again. Thank God for my mature, experienced instructor. He told me some of his own true confessions, and dogged me to get back in the cockpit. I'm licensed now, and deeply grateful for the chance to keep learning. Many successful go arounds later, I have a healthy respect for crosswinds and for the wisdom of going around.

There is no shame in a go-around!

I had just entered the downwind with a bit of extra speed due to merging with a couple of people in the pattern doing touch and go's. On final, I still had a little more speed than usual, but plenty of runway, so no worries. (Some of you already know what happened next). The mains touched down perfectly, and I lowered the nose. Then "bounce", I'm in the air again, (rebound from the nose wheel). Oh no, the dreaded porpoise! My first thought was of my instructor telling me there is no shame in going around. I thought I might have it under control (my bad), but then it bounced again. At this time, the emails I had read on the Gang kicked in. In particular, I remembered reading one "experienced" contributor's email about putting the throttle to the wall in a bad situation and how no face lost in a go around, but much face is lost in a botched landing. So I throttled-up and went around. My daughter was my passenger and she was laughing at the bouncing, "can we do it again". This was much better than me crying over a bent aircraft.