After my previous post (My Suppressed Traumas), I had many request for stories on some more emergencies. This somewhat violates my purpose for the blog, so these are my last posts on this subject. Maybe someday I will make a separate website for my other FAA experiences. All four of these emergencies had successful outcomes. One was an airliner with a total electrical failure at night in weather with my future wife aboard. Two were single engine airplanes in clouds and their engine stopped. The last emergency was with (3) Navy F-18 Hornet fighters about to run out of fuel in bad weather and without proper navigational equipment. They requested to eject from their aircraft over the water (Gulf of Mexico).
Coffee, Tea, or a Flashlight?
Laurie: “ I was married to Clint for six years when one evening I walked into our home office and saw that he was clearing out his file cabinet. On the floor to my shock was a FAA Flight Assist Report dated December 4, 2001. I was the first class flight attendant on this Continental Airlines Boeing 737-500 on that December night. Until that night we had no idea that our lives were connected that night five years before we met. Small world!
About 30 minutes later we landed without incident and when we got to the gate the pilots stayed an unusually long time in the closed cockpit. I waited for my flashlight and when they walked out they were so sweaty wet that you could see their skin through their shirts. They were definitely stressed! ”
My Story: I was in the break room and I was told to report to the Radar Room to do a radar approach (talk down) with a B737. I was told that the B737 was having navigational equipment problems. I didn’t know that they also had an electrical failure too. A Boeing 737 has a standby battery that will last only 30 minutes for communications (meaning: after 30 minutes no radio & no navigation equipment). I was the only controller on duty out of twelve others that knew how to conduct a radar approach (see PDF below). That night we had an overcast ceiling with base of the clouds at 700 feet and the visibility was 4 miles -so not a big deal except for my future unknown wife being aboard.
Laurie should have gotten an award for her mini-flashlight. The pilots needed a light to see the only instruments that were working.
Side story:Laurie had some bad emergencies in her career: one plane crash where one passenger died and one hijacking in 1974, where a mental patient on leave from a VA hospital put a knife to her throat an hour outside of LAX. She talked him into dropping the knife and surrendering in the LAX terminal lounge (she stated that the scariest part was all of the law enforcement people had pointed their guns at them). The picture above was taken on the day she retired after 38 years with Continental Airlines.
My son Clay, is one of the few controllers that knows how to conduct a radar approach and he works at the FAA Terminal Radar Facility at IAH (where I retired).
A Swiftair B737 lost all instruction displays in 2017 after departing Shannon, Ireland. They were fortunate that the weather was good.
Is This Going To Be A Fatal Accident?
This is a minute audio on Bonanza 89E
My heading took the plane into the second story of the bedroom window. A four year old boy’s bed backed up to the window and the year and a half old baby boy was on the other side of the room. The four year old would have been killed if he would have been in his bed. The four year old boy had never stayed up beyond 9 PM until that night. The crash took place at 10 PM.
The pilot of N89E phoned me two weeks after this event. He appreciated me telling him to fly his airplane, because he was distracted trying to restart his engine. The pilot told me that didn’t receive any injuries when he crashed into the upstairs bedroom. The worst part of the crash was that the airplane’s center of gravity made the plane fall out of the window to the ground. Getting out of his plane he dropped his owners manual on the ground. He received a minor cut on his hand picking up the manual by a piece of glass that had fallen into the grass from the upstairs window. That was his only injury. Not even a bruise. I asked the pilot what he did for a living. The pilot told me he was employed at NASA as a space physicist!
“Departure I’m losing an Engine”
I left employment with the FAA and started a business with a coworker. I kept the business, but I returned to my previous FAA facility eighteen months later. On my first day back in retraining I was busy working over ten other aircraft in the Houston area when Cessna 56T a single engine Cardinal airplane pilot told me that he had lost his engine. He was in the clouds below 3,000 feet descending over the TV antenna farm that are 2,049 feet tall. My trainer later told me to start collecting my Flight Assist documents and write a book! What transpired is also on the 3 minute audio:
How far to the Gulf ? We need to eject!
Around 8 am on the morning of February 4, 1998 a formation flight of three (3) US Navy FA- 18 Hornet fighter jets departed Jacksonville NAS in Florida enroute to Ellington Field here in Houston. Unknown to these pilots was that the thunderstorms in route would require deviations around these thunderstorms that would put them in a fuel emergency situation. In addition the primary navigational aid that they could navigate on for a landing was out of service. They also didn’t know that the weather was going to be a lot worst than forecasted. The ceilings within a hundred and fifty miles were below 500 feet and visibilities were 1 mile or less. I knew from a previous experience with US Navy fighters that they are not equipped with the civilian Instrument Landing System (ILS) panel. All the right combinations for an accident!
The flight leader called 25 miles out and I asked him, “ The TACAN is out of service, did you get the weather, and what are your intentions?. The flight leader stated, “ please vector us to the Gulf to eject, we have less than twenty minutes of fuel, how far to the water?”
I transmitted, “will you accept a unpublished Radar Surveillance Approach that we might have to bust minimums to land?” He stated, “ Affirmative “! I vectored the formation to a eight mile final, descended them to 400 feet, and at one mile from the runway to 300 feet (200 feet above the ground). They saw the runway on 1/2 mile final and landed. The tower controller called and told my supervisor that one of the fighters might have ran out of gas on the taxiway. I saved three F-18s worth $87 million dollars and possibly injury or death to three pilots ( I don’t feel too guilty every month receiving my government retirement check).