Tell Me What I Did Wrong!
[In the words of Ray Wadsworth] I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression that flying is a terrifying experience, its not, its a wonderful thing, and for every terrifying experience there are 1000 wonderful experiences! Its kind of like freeway driving except the highs are higher! About 1991 I completed construction on a commercial boat with 4,000 horse power and it went 50 MPH. It took this kind of a boat to get me to quit fish spotting and go back to fishing. About mid way into the Kodiak Island Herring season we had a few days off, and I wanted to go to town to take care of some business, so I asked for a ride to town with our spotter pilot. Our group had hired a pilot named Pete. We referred to him as Pete the pilot! He was a young man just starting out his piloting business. I believe he was a flight instruction, and he had another young man with him in the co-pilot seat who I assumed was a student. I knew nothing of these two young men, or of their flying experience. We were just thankful to have a pilot because the price of herring had fallen to rock bottom, and since the pilot takes a percent of the catch for payment, he wasn't getting much money for his effort. Kodiak is a grueling long season for pilots. Anyway, I climbed into the back seat of his Cessna 180 floatplane, and we headed to town. The weather was good on the west side of Kodiak Island, but the town of Kodiak is on the east side, and that was a different story. Town was fogged in, but we groped around in the fog and found town, landed safely and went about the business. Pete gassed up the plane, we bought a bunch of groceries for the boats, got everyone’s mail and crawled back in the airplane to head back out to the boats. The airplane was very heavy, and took for ever to get off the water. We rounded spruce cape and headed into Ouzinki Narrows and into a pea soup thick fog. Spruce Island on the right and Kodiak Island on the left... or at least that is where they should have been. Not having head phones, I could not hear what Pete or his co-pilot were saying, but he started into a right turn. There wasn't a breath of wind and not a ripple on the water so it was impossible to see the surface, and Pete chose to turn right although he is sitting on the left side of the airplane, and right turns at low levels are deadly because the pilot can't see the surface. I'm looking out the right side trying to get a fix on how high we were when we passed over a piece of floating kelp. We weren't more than 3' above the water, and I hollered out to Pete, “you are too low, go up” but I have no idea if he even heard me. This turn to the right seemed to last forever! Where was he going? Did he mark his heading before starting his turn? Was he trying to turn around? How would he know if he had turned 180 degrees? The horror had begun. Seconds were like minutes or hours. All of a sudden the nightmare got worse. A rocky shore and spruce trees loomed up 100 feet ahead. Pete pulled back on the yoke and went to full throttle. With the stall warning horn blowing in my ear he tried to climb over the trees. I looked out my side windows and saw the tips of spruce trees with spruce cones just a few feet away and above my horizontal view on both sides. I thought to my self, this is how it feels to die! Any second the trees I couldn't see under the belly of the plane would make contact with us! How would it sound? What would it be like? My legs squeezed together so hard it hurt! I prayed out loud “Oh God.. help us”. Suddenly, there was water under us! It was a lake! Pete pushed the nose of the airplane down and we regained some airspeed. An Island with tall trees appeared dead ahead, and Pete turned hard left to go around it, then hard right to avoid the tall trees on the left side of the lake. Straight ahead was a row of dead spruce trees, and over them was the ocean again. Pete landed the plane on the water. We were alive! You can not know how good it felt. Pete shut off the engine, pulled off his head set and turned around to me and said “tell me what I did wrong... ” This proud pilot named Pete had just become teachable. How many “Pete's” are there out there who go to their grave and never become teachable? A mistake can be fatal physically and spiritually, and Spiritually is the worst. We are blessed beyond belief to live in a dispensation of time like no other in the history of this earth. D&C 121:26 “God shall give unto you knowledge by his holy spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has been held in reserve since the world was until now (27) which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times which their minds were pointed to by the angles, as held in reserve for the fulness of their glory; (28) A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld... 31. … in the days of the dispensation of the fulness of times” “Follow the prophets” is how not to have to ask “what did I do wrong?” When Pete asked me, what he did wrong, I felt like a missionary when someone asks “tell me about your church?” wow, where do I start. After getting over wanting to throw him out of the airplane and telling him to swim to shore, here is what I said. You're a float plane for heavens sake, just land, turn around and taxi back out of the fog! Or, if you know where you are, just climb up through the fog and fly higher than the highest hills, that is the least stressful, but if you have to go in fog, know exactly where you are when entering 2. take note of your heading 3. start a stop watch 4. make standard rate turns. If you choose to fly back out of the fog, you know the time and headings, and last of all, never turn right at low elevation unless there is no other choice. Last time I saw Pete the pilot was about 10 years later in Juneau. He had his own charter service. I figured that because he was still alive, he was no doubt a good pilot my now.