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The 180-degree turn: a life-saving maneuver for all pilots (even test pilots)

Under certain circumstances, a 180-degree turn is the greatest life-saving maneuver that can be performed in an aircraft. I can personally attest to this fact, as it is highly likely that I’m here writing this thanks to a certain 180-degree turn that I made many years ago. That also applies to my three passengers at the time, hopefully still happy and healthy, wherever they may be.

Don’t let a forced landing get you down

The sign said “Learn to Fly – $80.” It was posted at the entrance to the airport, a small grass strip located near the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It turned out that “learning to fly” meant going solo; after that, more cash was needed. Still, it was a pretty good deal. As a 17-year-old airman with a few extra bucks in his pocket, this was an opportunity not to be missed. How could I pass it up?

Merlin’s magic: unintended fireworks from a P-51

I lined up on the centerline and advanced the throttle. The aircraft accelerated rapidly and broke ground. This was my fifth solo takeoff in this aircraft, a North American P-51D Mustang. I raised the landing gear, and the climb speed reached about 175 knots. Approaching the airport boundary, the engine began shuddering and vibrating.