Thursday, April 11, 2013

Grease Paint.

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.

Had 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.

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