18 July 1983

Shadowy pilot and racing the storm

I was practicing a "partial panel" approach to Runway 9 at Port Columbus with my instrument instructor. ("Partial panel" means that certain instruments on the panel have failed.) A hood limited my vision to the panel, simulating flight with only the remaining instruments. However, because the sun was behind me, there were vertical shadows being cast on the cockpit panel. The shadows let me know immediately whether I was turning right or left. I took full advantage of that information and flew a beautiful partial panel approach to Port Columbus. In response to my instructor's praise, I admitted to my shadowy helper.

That same evening approaching Dayton General, the instructor asked me, "What kind of weather report did you get?"

I said, "Mostly clear, with a chance of scattered thundershowers."

He said, "Well take off your hood and take a look at that scattered thundershower."

In front of us was a very large thunderstorm that was closing in on Dayton General. The race was on. On final approach the wind gusts were picking up, which made control of the aircraft a bit more challenging.

The airplane began to sink below an appropriate glide path, and the instructor said, "Add power."

So I added a small amount of power, about 100 rpm. He said more forcefully, "Add power!" I added another 100 rpm. Then the instructor blurted out, "Pardon my aversion to dying. ADD POWER!"

I then got the message and pushed the throttle all the way to the firewall. Even with full power, the airplane barely made it to the runway threshold. We landed safely. Playing chicken with thunderstorms is not a recommended procedure. Inevitably your plane will be ripped apart, before or after you hit the ground.

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