Flying in the Fog (Part 2)

(Continued from last week)

The right engine had cut out. I abandoned the radio and went through the memorized engine failure emergency checklist, finally pulling the throttle to idle and feathering the prop. 

“Boston Center, Six-Seven-Delta, do you read?”

“Roger, Six-Seven-Delta,” the controller responded. “Please confirm your status.”

“I’m on the missed approach from Runway Seven at Provincetown and have an engine out in the climb. I repeat, engine out.”

“Roger, Six-Seven-Delta. Are you able to climb?”

“Barely,” I answered. “I’ll continue the climb as much as I can, but I’ll need to intercept the approach to Runway Seven as soon as possible.” 

We had to land at Provincetown, there was no other option. The plane was climbing at less than fifty feet per minute.

“We’ll be there soon, sir.” I tried to reassure the Congressman. He was clutching the edges of his seat.

He looked at me, this time with fear in his eyes.

I worked on managing the new forces inflicted by the imbalance of a lost engine while keeping the slow climb going. 

“Six-Seven-Delta, turn left heading two-five-five.”

“Roger.”

The controller was taking me on the standard missed approach procedure, but two thousand feet would not be happening. At only five hundred feet now, it was a struggle.

“Roger, Six-Seven-Delta. I’ll vector you to intercept the approach on a short final. I’ll alert the ground personnel to have emergency equipment waiting.”

“Oh my God!” my passenger cried out in a panic.

The minutes crawled by as I was vectored back to repeat the approach, still trying to climb. It was a slow process with only half power. When I finally turned back onto the radial at seven hundred feet, sweat was dripping from my brow. Managing the approach with only one engine was a challenge, but doing it knowing I had to land despite the fog was a bigger challenge. 

“I need you to help me out here, Gerry,” I blurted. “Keep your eyes outside and holler if you see the ground or anything other than clouds.” There was no time for formality or deference.

“Will do,” he responded quickly and turned his attention outside the windows. As in control as he was professionally, and even as a passenger, he must have felt just as helpless now that there were no guarantees of a relaxing summer weekend in Provincetown with his partner, or a weekend at all.

I went through the steps to prepare for landing, modifying them as needed with only one propeller turning. 

At three hundred feet, I was praying we would emerge from the soup for an easier than expected end to this approach. Congressman Studds was on full alert, his eyes carefully scanning the outside the windows.

With no relief at two hundred fifty feet, I prayed harder. My passenger gripped the handle on his door.

At two hundred, the runway was still not in sight.

My mind flashed back to my early flight training, when my instructor taught me how to salvage an approach by going below minimums. I inched the airplane down hoping for a break. At one hundred feet, the tension in the airplane was palpable.

And then, at fifty feet, the runway threshold came into sight below the nose.

“There it is!!” Gerry shouted. “There it is! Do you see it?”

“Got it,” I confirmed. I locked my vision on the misty runway. 

A soft landing followed, and Gerry clapped his hands. I turned at the end of the runway and taxied the short distance to the terminal. We couldn’t have been happier to be in Provincetown.

“We made it, Gerry,” I said after shutting the surviving engine down. 

He reached over and grabbed me in a big hug. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!!”

I noticed tears in his eyes. There were a few in my eyes, too.

2 thoughts on “Flying in the Fog (Part 2)”

  1. The very definition of ‘white knuckle’ flying. phew. … Did you ever find out why the aircraft performance was so poor? And why that engine quit. You certainly earned “the big bucks” that day. — because we both know how well-paying the lower-echelon jobs in aviation can be. Thanks for sharing. – grant

    1. Hi Grant, It was so many years ago that I don’t recall the cause of the failure or the poor climb performance on the remaining engine. I do remember it was due for maintenance the following week.

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