Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Aviation Stories

Two funny stories today from our instructor:

Braniff 727

He was working in Oklahoma City tower at a time when Braniff International Airways was still in operation (the airline folded in 1982). During that period, Braniff had a promotion called "Braniff Bucks". If your Braniff flight was late, you would be paid a dollar for every minute over the scheduled arrival time. 20 minutes late, you'd pocket $20. Naturally, this gave the flight crews a real incentive to get to their destination as quickly as possible.

Well, one day there's a Braniff 727 inbound to Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City. They're cutting it close on the clock, and from the direction they're coming they'll have to take a full pattern to approach the runway into the wind. So, to save time, the pilot requests a straight-in opposite-direction landing, meaning he'll be landing with the wind at his back. This isn't explicitly dangerous, as long as the wind isn't too strong and the runway is long enough. The reported wind isn't too high, so the tower approves the request and clears him to land.

So in he goes. The tailwind is higher than reported and, to compound the situation, his approach speed is over what it should be. He touches down, realizes that the speed's way too hot, and proceeds to basically stand on the brakes. As he's gripping the yoke, he depresses the mic toggle, and now everyone on the frequency can hear the mayhem in the cockpit. The pilot is swearing up a storm, and in the background you could hear the flight engineer counting down the Runway Distance Remaining markers. "Three thousand! Two thousand! One thousand!" Somewhere along the way, the landing gear collapses, and the Boeing does a slip-and-slide right off the end of the runway and takes out the approach lights.

As it grinds to a halt, the pilot releases the mic and the frequency goes silent. Everyone on board is relieved and glad to be alive. The captain and crew are dreading what this will do to their careers.

Without missing a beat, the local controller keys his mic: "Well..." he says dryly,"at least you beat the clock!"

IFR F-16

The airport where our instructor was working was under serious IFR conditions. They had an F-16 trying to land through the soup, but after two failed attempts he was running low on fuel. He only had enough for one more try, and specifically requested that the tower put their best guy on the radio to talk him down. If he didn't make it this time, he'd take it straight out and eject.

So the tower puts their most experienced guy on the radio, the guy who's been controlling since the only thing in the air were pterodactyls. He talks that F-16 out of the sky, bringing him right into the pocket. The fighter touches down beautifully, rolls out on the runway, and flames out before he can turn off. It was a lucky day for the pilot. The trucks roll out to the airplane and retrieve the pilot.

Later on, the hotshot controller hangs up his headset for the night and leaves for home. Due to that airport's layout, he needs to cross the runway and movement areas to get out. So he hops in his car, heads on to the foggy dark runway... and proceeds to drive into the F-16. That's right, the same multi-million dollar fighter that he talked down earlier was still sitting on the runway, in the dark and muck. And now it has thousands of dollars of damage due to the same guy who saved it from destruction!

No comments: