The Associated Airmasters have joined in a membership organization to promote the historical significance of the era of flight through stories by individual pilots about their experiences. The opportunity for preserving what passes with "hangar talk" is offered to those whose stories might never be recorded. The coordinator of this effort (and corporate representative) has a Home Page at Airwriter.
Members are invited to contribute stories of their experiences for publication in a quarterly (print) newsletter, to be archived for historical research, or later published as part of an anthology. Future activities may include the annual award of a civilian DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS (DFC) to aviators world-wide not otherwise recognized,who have demonstrated superior ability, and exemplify the skill and daring of early pilots of the Twentieth Century.
Half-way between Seven Islands and Happy Valley–Goose Bay is a dirt strip with a low frequency non-directional radio beacon. Our A-D-F was inoperative, but we fetched that reminder of men right on time, on course. There was no sign of life, but a trash pile indicated men sometimes visited there. We swept on over the esters. Nothin’ to it. But the cloud was getting a little lower. We could see layers ahead. Fog was gathering around the peaks, shrouding the black mirror lakes. Decks of stratus angled above. Discussion time.
“What d'ya think? Shall we stay contact, or go between layers?”
“Well, it’s only a hundred miles to the Goose–less than an hour.”
“They have radar, and I-L-S.”
“What the hell, let’s be safe, stay in the clear. We can make an instrument approach when we get there. Why fight the visibility?”
Decision. Climb. Stay out of cloud. It is below freezing, then. We can no longer see the dark rock, for it is covered by vapors. We are in the airman’s world of instruments, the sea of the sky, unseen stars above, unseen earth below.
“Where are we?”
“Let’s see, looks like about 70 miles. We were a mile right of course at this lake, right here. I’ll try the radio. Hello, Goose Approach, Cessna November-Seven-Eight-One-Seven-Four.”
“Do you think we ought to climb a little higher?”
“Yeah, better stay out of the cloud. Try about sixty-five hundred.”
“O.k., looks good.”
Our little airplane hung in a vaulted chancel of white and greys, the fog below sloping insidiously upward, great pillars of ragged cloud eruptions causing us to slalom for clear air. Breaks in the high overcast closed as if zippered suddenly by a celestial wind. We rode between layers, an isolate bug caught by the breath of the North.
“Goose Radar, this is Cessna N78174, do you copy? They’re on their coffee break.”
“Tea. Is that the right frequency?”
“Yeah. Goose Approach, N71784.”
“Aircraft calling Goose Bay, you’re broken, say again.”
“Goose Approach, this is N78174 approaching from southwest, six thousand, five hundred, request radar vectors and instrument approach to your field.”
“78174, roger. Say type aircraft, fuel, and souls on board.”
“Goose, 174. Cessna 172, four hours fuel, two pilots.”
“Roger, 174. Squawk 6-2-0-1, ident. Say altitude.”
“174 is six-decimal-five, ident.
“174, radar contact, five-seven miles south. Descend and maintain five thousand. Goose weather, indefinite ceiling, four hundred overcast, light rain showers, fog, wind light and variable, altimeter two-nine-eight-seven. I-L-S approach to Runway 1-9 in use.”
“Roger, Goose. Leaving six-point-five, for five.”
“What happened to the fifteen hundred foot ceiling?”
“No sweat. Carburetor heat, on. Here we go, into the cloud.”
“Uh, oh, look at that!”
As the airplane penetrated the cloud, a glaze like vaseline covered the plexiglas, turned white, slipped upward. Some blew away, some stayed, forming a hard buildup at the junction of the wing and windshield. As we adjust our thinking to the possibilities with these events, just as I was turning to check the horizontal stabilizer for ice, the engine shuddered, back-fired, the tachometer sank to a high idle, and the whole airplane began to vibrate as if we were flying across the furrows of a plowed field. Steve pumped the carburetor heat control without effect. I had pushed the mixture control forward automatically, checked the fuel valve on BOTH. We were definitely going down.
“O.k., Steve, just fly the airplane. Uh, Goose, we have a problem ... induction icing ... we’re descending through five thousand.”
“It’s really vibrating. This could ruin our whole day.”
“Fly the airplane. I’ll get the engine running.”
“174, are you declaring an emergency?”
“Goose, standby, we’re descending, carburetor icing, severe vibration, we’ll get back with you in a minute.”
“174, what is your altitude?”
“We’re down to thirty-four.”
“174, recommend do not descend lower. Terrain elevation in your vicinity is twenty-nine hundred.”
The propeller continued to turn due to the forward progress of the craft through the air, creating drag instead of thrust. The problem was to get fuel, in any amount, back in those cylinders. I tried leaning the mixture, and the engine caught. By jockeying the throttle and mixture control, I managed to get the right combination of air and gasoline to the engine. A quick glance at the outside air temperature guage showed +2C. At least we wouldn't have airframe icing to contend with. Steve kept the airspeed nailed on 65 knots. The vertical velocity needle climbed past the horizontal. How long would the engine run?
“Goose, 174 has partial power, climbing.”
“174, try to maintain four.”
“Roger, we’re level four.”
“174, is your emergency over?”
“Affirmative, Goose. We’re alright, now.”
Until the engine quit again. The second time, it was without the vibration. It slowly wound down, rpm dropping despite all my repositioning efforts with throttle and mixture. I could visualize the ice building in the carburetor venturi, the passage for air and fuel getting smaller and smaller. I gave it a shot of full rich, and pumped the throttle. It ran rough, but I had it running again.
“What are you doing?”
“Just keep the wings level.”
“174, you’re thirteen miles from the field. What is your altitude?”
“Try to stay as high as you can, 174.”
“Does he think we’re looking for a place to try out the survival gear?”
It was getting dark. The idea of trying to control a crash at fifty miles an hour into the bush at night was with us. We had been in the clouds for forty-five minutes, had no clear idea of where we were, or how long the engine would continue to run. My fingers were vised to the mixture control, eyes dancing to airspeed, altitude, tachometer, checking attitude. Steve and I had flown many trips together, but he was not instrument rated. We were still flying, and there was still the voice over our heads, the relating strand of contact with a real world beyond our desperate encounter.
“174, did you copy?”
“Roger, Goose. We’ve got about 200 feet per minute climb, now.”
“174, do you want the equipment out?”
“Yeah, may as well.”
“174, say again. Are you declaring an emergency?”
“Affirmative. I hope we don't have to pay for it. Where are we, Goose?”
“174, fly heading zero-niner-zero, downwind vector for one-niner. Say altitude."
“174 is 3500.”
“Roger, 174. Current Goose weather, indefinite ceiling, estimated six hundred overcast, visibility two miles, light rain, fog, wind calm. 174, turn left, three-three-zero, base leg to intercept the localizer. We’re taking you over the bay to avoid the hills. Remain this frequency.”
“Oh, wonderful. Five thousand dollars worth of bush survival gear in the back seat, and we go in the bay!
“174, roger. Turn it on around, Steve, get some bank angle. Damn! there goes the needle. We overshot. Goose, how far are we from the field?”
“174 is one-quarter mile from the threshold, one-quarter mile right of course.”
"I have the aircraft, we're too high, got to get down.”
“Can you see the attitude indicator?”
“30 degrees left bank, 1200 feet per minute.”
“I got it! I have the runway. Over here, right under us.”
“Goose, 174 has the field in sight.”
“Roger, 174, cleared to land. Monitor tower frequency. Goose Radar, out.”
“Look at all the fire trucks.”
“They do that for all ambassadors. Think you can land it? I’m a little stressed.”
“Sure, I got it.”
“Once again, skill and daring win over fear and superstition.”
“And a little help from the Goose!”
True ambition is like an eagle in flight,
He challenges, he soars, with seeming delight,
The fiercer the wind, the stronger he flies,
He's the master competitor high in the skies.
He's but a speck in the sky, his wings near inert,
With the sharpest of eyes he's always alert,
It takes vision to know when opportunity's in sight,
And the courage to move when the timing is right.
For those with ambition, it's better it seems
To SOAR WITH THE EAGLES, to stay true to their dreams,
For life is our challenge, what stands in our way
Is the way that we view it, how we handle each day.
TO SOAR WITH THE EAGLES, how great it would be,
For that's what success is, for you and for me,
We may sacrifice now, as we seek to unwind
The riddle of life, the goals we've in mind.
For victory comes finally to those who aspire,
Who are willing to fly, to go higher and higher,
Yes, SOAR WITH THE EAGLES, let imagination take flight,
Success will be yours...when you finally alight.
© Howard E. Morseburg, for Karen Thorndike (who was then sailing her solo circumnavigation), returning to home port in August, 1998.
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