Aviation In Canada

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Aviation Story, Part 1 of 4

Here's a story that I couldn't possibly have told twice, unlike yesterday's. A man named Dave Anderson recently wrote me about my Aviation Topics of the Week I wrote which ended last year while searching for some information. We exchanged e-mails, and when he saw my mention of my paranoia about aircraft engine failures, he sent me a story which he had published some time ago. It was a real life experience for him, and he allowed me to share it with you. It'll be in 4 parts, so stay tuned.


By Dave Anderson

I depart Salinas Airport mid afternoon on this sixth day of April, 1972. As I cross the Priest VOR on an eastbound heading for Bakersfield, I level my single engine 1965 Centerion 210E at 7500 feet. With maximum throttle and engine RPM at redline, I lean mixture for best power then report having reached cruise altitude to Oakland Center which is providing VFR (Visual Flight Rules) Radar Flight Following.
It has been a busy week, and I now look forward to a quick stop at my home in Bakersfield and then flying on to San Diego for Easter weekend with family at Hotel Del Coronado. This will be my second flight to the San Diego area this week, as I flew to Chula Vista for a meeting with the San Diego County Ag Commissioner on Monday. Our business is crop dusting and the helicopter operation at Brown Field in Chula Vista is of one of five companies that we pur-chased and merged into an operation whose day-to-day activities I often refer to as "civilian combat." We have twenty pilots operating at various locations in the state. As this is post-Rachel Carson, these crop dusters, once viewed with abundant respect, are increasingly becoming the target of environmentalists.
As I pass southwest of Coalinga I look down and spot Avenal Airport. When my aerial steed was somewhat slower I had often stopped at Avenal for a coke and a visit with the airport manager on my way back to Bakersfield. I now calculate a true airspeed of 196 mph with favorable upper winds bumping my DME ground speed to an impressive 212 mph. The weather is severe clear and the air is smooth. I calculate my touch down at Meadows Field, Bakersfield, will be in twenty minutes.
Since Oakland Center passed me off to Lemoore Approach Control a few minutes ago, I call Lemoore Approach Control as I near the town of Lost Hills and inform them that I will be commencing my descent for Bakersfield. Lemoore acknowledges and gives me three NAS jets in formation at eleven o'clock, eight miles. I reply a "negative" on this traffic, put the nose down and start building airspeed. In a few minutes my indicated airspeed is approaching redline and I slowly reduce manifold pressure to stay in the yellow. I'm at the top of the envelope for my stalwart bird when suddenly out of this smooth flight comes moderate turbulence. I ease back on the throttle and gently raise the aircraft's nose, swapping airspeed for altitude. While slowing the turbulence subsides, and I again drop the nose and increase power. As I gently move the throttle forward there is a thundering clang from the front of the
aircraft and a sickening quiver through the airframe. I must have hit something! The windshield darkens and I no longer have forward visibility. Now there is silence; and here, disoriented and 7000 feet above the ground, the sound of silence is terrifying!