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You (almost) always remember your first time...

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Engineer 4
Engineer 4
Posts: 1720
Joined: Fri May 19, 2006

You (almost) always remember your first time...

Unread post by islandflyer » Wed Nov 08, 2006

It’s funny, how the mind works. I remember that day like it was yesterday, but the date in the logbook says otherwise – 18th July, 1984. Some of the details are clear as crystal, others not so. This is what I remember…

We had just come back in from a flight in the 152, 8P-ASM. It was a final prep flight, ‘cause he thought I was ready. I was suddenly not convinced. I remember Bill Chandler yelling something above the noise of the engine as we cleared the active at Delta to the South ramp, then he motioned with his hand. When I swung around and set the brakes, he uncoiled himself from the cockpit, gathered up his stuff, and slammed the door shut. I watched him as he strode away with what I called a lop-along gait.

The 152 never felt so hot, so noisy, so cramped now that I was alone. With a million things running through my head, I called ground and then taxied back out to the holding point of D to wait for traffic. I remember being very self conscious as I saw other people standing by the Clubhouse door – I think I looked back and saw Bill standing outside the hanger – so I did the most reasonable thing and ignored them.

After a few minutes and a few arrivals, I was getting impatient, very aware that the Hobbs was ticking away and my available money was being exhausted. It must have been close to 2140 GMT – 4:40 pm – and tower had cleared a British Airways 747 for takeoff. He must have heard my sigh, cause he immediately asked if I would accept an intersection takeoff after the departing 747 (there was traffic on a long final). My overheated brain screamed “Yes!”

The 747 rotated somewhere after Charlie taxiway, so when I was called up, I gunned it onto the active, swung around into the wind, and floored it. I lumbered down the asphalt and bumped up into the air. My mind was going a mile a minute, am I doing this right, what did it look like from the ground, when suddenly the aircraft gave a sharp lurch to the right. Time froze, along with the blood in my veins. I hauled the column to the left and we recovered, then another sharper lurch, and even with full left aileron I started to roll to the right. Wind? No, wingtip vortex! Silent killer!

In retrospect it only took about 1-2 seconds, but somehow I hit both right rudder and right aileron while pulling back, grabbing the mic in my lap with sweaty palm and screaming into it “ASM, request immediate right turn!”. Of course, by the time they answered I was already heading south in a hurry.

Honestly I don’t remember much after that. I made a shaky landing and wobbled off the active, was able to shut down (I think I left something on) and stumble out. Bill was sitting in the Ops Room waiting, where he took my logbook and without much fanfare, wrote:

“Time: 0.2, W. Chandler, SCPL #11 – First Solo”

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