Saturday, September 23, 2006

War Stories from ADP...

In my last post I promised that I'd share some of my more interesting ADP anecdotes. I think I've written about a few of these in the past, although I'm not finding them in my archives. Actually, I just found one, about my first multi-engine student attempting to kill me twice in one flight; that story is here. If I'm repeating myself on other stories, sorry...


In my first post I alluded to an eventful first hour of dual instruction on the same day I passed my CFII/MEI. It was actually supposed to be a mock checkride for an Egyptian student, Said, who was scheduled to take his Private Pilot checkride the next day. His instructor suggested that we go to Cable Airport - 5 miles east of Brackett - to get Said familiarized with the airport. I gave Said a short briefing about what we'd be doing, he said he understood, and after his preflight we took off for Cable Airport to practice some short and soft field landings.

I quickly realized that, for someone about to take a PPL checkride, Said did not know how to land. Every time he would flare out way too high (fifty feet!), get slow, get a big sink rate going, arrest it with a mighty blast of power, and float halfway down the rather short runway. I had him do full-stop landings so we could talk about it on the taxi-back, and I would explain that he needed to start the flare lower, and Said would agree, but then on the next time around he'd do the exact same thing.

This went on for a good four or five trips around the pattern, and I finally told Said that I would fly with him to help him find a proper flare height. Turning final I put my hands on the control wheel and told him to not flare out until I told him to and pulled gently on the wheel. Sure enough, he attempted to flare at 50 feet; my hands were there and pushed the wheel gently forward. To my amazement, Said then flared out at the perfect height. "Okay, now land the airplane," I said as I removed my hands from the yoke.

The instant my hands were clear, Said hauled visciously back on the yoke, ballooning back up to around 50' above the runway. The airspeed tanked, the stall horn went off. "My airplane!" I barked as I firewalled the throttle and attempted to push the yoke forward. I couldn't understand why I was having trouble doing so until I glanced over at Said; he had a death grip on the yoke and a frightened expression on his face. "Let go!" I barked (actually, it was more of a yelp). No response from Said. With my left hand, I reached over and hit him in the upper arm several times. Surprised, he let go of the yoke; I got the nose down and played altitude for airspeed, sinking to just above the runway before gaining enough speed to climb out over the bushes at the end. "Okay, that's enough for today. I'm going to fly home if you don't mind." Said was speechless during the short flight back to Brackett.

I told Said's flight instructor what happened over at Cable; he was fairly non-plussed. "Must be a case of the checkride jitters." I told him it seemed like more than jitters to me, but the instructor signed Said off for the checkride nonetheless. The next day, Said took off for his checkride and returned triumphantly a few hours later with a new Private Pilot's License. I started to understand why the Egyptian students always insisted upon this particular examiner. Later I heard rumors that they'd bring baksheesh of good cognac to the checkrides.


Anas' attempt to kill me twice in five minutes wasn't the only eventful flight I had with him. A few days later, we had a multi-engine lesson introducing low speed engine cuts. With a low speed engine cut, the instructor uses the mixture to fail an engine early in the takeoff roll, without letting the student see which engine it is. The student is expected to maintain directional control while quickly retarding both throttles and braking to a stop. By now, I'd had enough problems with Anas that I was quite cautious in introducting this maneuver. I briefed it at length before the lesson, and again while we were holding short of the runway. "What are you gonna do as soon as you feel the plane yaw, Anas?"; "I'm going to cut both throttles and keep the plane on centerline." "Ok, good. Let's try one."

I told Brackett Tower what we were up to; they cleared us for takeoff on 26R with as much delay as we wanted. Anas lined up and brought the throttles up for takeoff; I hid the mixtures behind my left hand, and waited until around 20 knots before cutting the right mixture.

Immediately, the plane lurched towards the right side of the runway. Not only did Anas not retard the throttles, he made no attempt to maintain directional control. He just sat there as I cut the other mixture and got on the left rudder a second too late, the airplane departing the runway and bumping through the weeds. By the time we were back on the runway, I'd retarded the throttles and brought the mixtures back before the engines died completely. "Seneca 159, are you okay out there?" asked Tower. They'd seen our off-runway exploits. "Yeah, we need to go back to ADP," I replied. I was fortunate that 26R had no runway lights to hit. I stayed calm and professional until I was out of earshot of Anas, at which point I exclaimed to a mechanic: "He tried to freaking kill me again!" The mechanic grinned: "Welcome to ADP!"


Sometime during that summer I was up in Monterey, CA, with a multi-engine commercial student whose name I don't recall at the moment. It was a fairly low overcast and I shot the ILS approach to get in, and decided to grab a bite to eat in the terminal before making our return flight. I believe the restaurant's name was The Golden Tee. I had a fairly big bowl of clam chowder, which really hit the spot. Once we were done we walked back to Million Air, paid for our fuel, rechecked the weather, and took off. Within a minute or two we were IMC.

Almost immediately after takeoff, I started getting ill. I broke out sweating in chills, my stomach was churning, and it felt like the seatbelt was suffocating me. I started looking for a sic sac or plastic bag or anything I could vomit into without making an unbearable mess. For once the airplane was completely clean. My student was looking rather concerned but was doing a fine job flying the airplane. We leveled off at 7000' when I could stand it no longer. I told him to slow down, I was going to open the door to puke. He slowed to around 95 knots and I opened the door.

Thhhwappp! In an instant, my neatly folded Jeppesen enroute chart was snatched off my lap and sucked out the door into the night. I had more pressing matters, but once I was done relieving myself of the cursed clam chowder, I realized that this was the only IFR chart for the area we'd had on board. My student hadn't bought Jeppesen plates yet because the current ones were just about to expire, so he'd been using mine. That chart (LO-3) covered our route on V27 all the way down the coast to Gaviota, where LO-5 picked up.

In retrospect, I should've fessed up to ATC. Instead, I hid my shame by referring to the VFR sectionals for the radials that defined V27. Soon enough we were on the LO-5 chart and nobody was the wiser. I never ate at the Golden Tee again, but I fortunately wasn't scarred enough to lose my love of fresh clam chowder...


Jesse was a Taiwanese student who'd just started his instrument training with me. We would do a lesson every few days, with the rest of his time devoted to cross-country flying to build up his 50 required hours of x/c time. Jesse didn't speak english very well, but seemed to handle ATC communications fine on our lessons. He'd tell me where he was going everyday but I didn't oversee him closely, since he had a PPL and wasn't really my student on his independent VFR cross countries.

One day while Jesse was gone on a flight, ADP got a call from Montgomery Field Tower in San Diego. Mark, the manager, took the call, but then summoned me over to talk to them "Sir, we have your student on the ground here, and we think you'd better come and get him. SoCal Approach has instructed us to not let him take off again." I quickly realized he was talking about Jesse, and inquired what he'd done.

Apparently, Jesse was talking to SoCal approach on his way down to Montgomery Field but was not cleared into Class B airspace, electing instead to stay below it and skirt Class B to the east. Unfortunately, as he turned west towards Montgomery Field, the late afternoon sun in the haze cut visibility down to almost nothing, and he became disoriented. He overflew MYF without seeing it and almost landed at Mirimar Naval Air Station, violating Class B airspace in the process. SoCal Approach tried to help him, but he was so utterly flummoxed at this point that he seemingly lost all ability to understand and speak english. After Mirimar, he became entirely unresponsive to ATC.

At this point he found the coastline and followed it southward - directly over Lindburg Field, San Diego's airline served Class B airport. After that, he flew low over North Island Naval Air Station, and then crossed the border into Mexican airspace. He actually made a low approach to the runway at Tijuana, going around only when the tower repeatedly flashed him with a red light gun signal. He flew through Brown Field's airspace on his way back north, and then miraculously found Montgomery - where he dutifully called the tower for landing clearance. I'm still amazed that the FAA didn't pursue action against his certificate. This was pre-9/11; these days doing what Jesse did could potentially get you shot down.

Another instructor flew me down to MYF, where we searched the dark field for several hours before finding Jesse. He was tearful and speechless the entire flight home. Later, he couldn't explain what'd happened; he could barely remember any of it. I took him up for some remedial cross-country training and he performed beautifully, his english better than I'd ever heard. He flew the rest of his cross-countries with instructors and other renters; nobody ever reported a problem. It seemed to be a one time screwup of epic proportions.


I have another few good stories but this post is getting long, I'll save em for another time...


Anonymous said...

very interesting...keep em coming

John said...

Excellent stories Sam. Reminds me of what the FAA inspector said to me when he handed me my temporary airman's certificate after passing my flight instructor check ride.

He shook my hand and said "That was a nice ride and now I'm going to pass on some wisdom for you to remember: Your students will try to kill you. Don't let them."

Ron said...

Amazing stories. I can't believe the FAA didn't go after Jesse's certificate. These days, you so much as THINK about violating airspace and you're on the bench.

If it happened today, I bet the Feds would revoke his certificate, suspend his instructors, and go after the flight school too. And that's if they were in a generous mood.

Flightfire said...

Great Stories