Yellow Peril

Al MacDiarmid (13)

On about my third training flight during Aviation Summer, I was assigned to a hot shot pilot who met me on the launching ramp and asked if I had flown before. I had, so he skipped the pre-flight briefing and said, "Let's go, we can beat all the others to the landing area."

The ground crew wound up the inertial starter after we got strapped in and the instructor started the engine, a Wright R-70-2 Whirlwind. We rolled down the ramp and into Chesapeake Bay. We floated off the dolly, turned into the wind and took off.

We flew to the landing area, which was just a piece of Chesapeake Bay with a crash boat anchored. The "landing field" was alongside the boat and into the wind. My instructor, who had no idea of my capabilities, announced that he would demonstrate the landing technique and then let me do one.

We flew the downwind leg at 500 feet over the water and then he chopped the throttle and glided a 180 degree turn into the wind. He then commenced a very steep slip and leveled it off about 4 feet below the water line. There was a tremendous splash, water sprayed up and hit the underside of both wings and rained down into the cockpits. He added full power as we were thrown back into the air and we staggered off to enter the pattern again. I heard him say, "Uh, that was not a good one, let me demonstrate that again."

I replied with a thumbs up. This time he held the slip just right, leveling out a few inches over the water

"OK, that's the way to do it. Your turn." I wiggled the stick indicating that I had the aircraft and did exactly what he had done the second time, leveling off a few inches over the water and thinking the whole time that this pilot was nuts.

Unfortunately I then pushed the wrong rudder pedal, like I was riding my Flexi-Flyer sled messing up my perfect landing.

After making the required number of landings, not counting his first two, we proceeded to climb to altitude and do the exercises that were scheduled, which we should have done in the first place. We had been the first off the water and one of the last to land, thus maximizing my flight time. He also skipped the debrief as he talked to me on the way back to the ramp. An exciting time for a raw midshipman.

Submitted Jan 2013