From a thousand feet up the runway was almost comical; a tiny strip of tarmac surrounded by plowed, black earth, neither a town or a hospital in sight. The town I wasn’t so worried about. We wouldn’t be staying and I could sate my hunger through a vending machine. The hospital though, there was a chance that I’d need one of those before the next 20 minutes had passed.
It was nearly a perpendicular crosswind I would need
to land in. According to the weather spotter it was steady to 20 knots
and gusting to 45. By all rights, my being only a recreational pilot, I
probably should have moved on and hoped the next possibility would be
calmer; but I was low enough on fuel that it was just short of now or
never and I didn’t trust in providence to deliver me from evil somewhere
down the road.
To keep a plane straight one has to find that
balance between speed and attitude, flying into the wind yet slipping to
the side while dropping altitude until that very last second before
touchdown. Too soon and you’re pushed off course and have to start over
if you can. Too late and your wheels contact askew and most likely
assist the wind in the process of flipping you onto your head.
I been alone I might have been less careful, a little more playful. I
had my dad with me, and a friend, and the length of their lives was not
up to me. In what might have been the greatest landing of my short
career behind the yoke, I greased that sucker on the runway without so
much as a squeal from the rubber. My life had seen oodles of failure,
but the few wins were damn dramatic.