More than a year before I set foot in a cockpit, I moved to Oklahoma. I remember a friend of mine telling me, “If you don’t like the weather here, give it fifteen minutes and it will change.” It was a good joke at the time, but once I started flying, this statement would serve as a constant reminder every time I sat behind the controls.
Ten Seconds from Hell may be rather a shocking statement: nevertheless, it is a true one. I am a pilot and have been one for 44 years. However, during my first few months of flying I had an experience that few live to tell about.
I lost a cylinder last time up. Here’s the story, with all details which I can recall, followed (figuratively, thank goodness) by a post-mortem. The first abnormal sign was a bad mag check. Three guys, first me, then one of Lincoln’s most experienced pilots, then an older pilot, all thought plug fouling.
During the first few hours after a new private pilot’s checkride, he feels unstoppable. Eventually, every green pilot makes a mistake that gives them a wake-up-call and makes the unstoppable pilot a mortal once more. It usually happens in marginal weather, at night, or in gusty winds. This story is about my wake-up-call.