Fear in the Skies

Essay by cougar6820College, UndergraduateB, February 2009

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“Riddle 450, turn right heading 090, contact Departure at 120.95. Good luck for your first solo!” “Heading 090, contacting Departure, Riddle 450, thank you.” So many things to do, so many things to worry about. Every single input has an output, every single act, has an outcome. So many switches for one purpose, and so many gauges to be in control of. The Aircraft is shaking through the rough air with it's four cylinder, 180 horse-power engine which is mounted in the front. It's his first time all by his self. Hundreds of factors and things that he has to pay attention to at the same time. He is executing his maneuvers with his stiff hands and tries to tell himself that everything is going to be alright. John's flight instructor is one of the best, and got him ready for his solo. John was informed of the rapid weather change in his area, after listening to ATIS.

Finding a solution to avoid the thunderstorm, he figured that his oil pressure gauge indicated in the lower red arc. That gave him an adrenalin rush, which made him panic and want to land the plane immediately. “Now I have two problems to deal with, John said.” He calls ATC and asked for permission to land at a close airport, mentioning that his oil pressure gauge is indicating in the lower red arc and that a thunderstorm is inbound his 9 o'clock. ATC asked for his location to vector him to the next closest airport. He was looking at the gauges and was confused by their indications. “What the hell,” he said unprofessionally over the radio. “Everything is going wrong right now, John said.” ATC asked for an explanation. John said, “All my gauges are spinning in random directions without stopping, I have never seen something like that before!” ATC told John to hit ident on the transponder, in order to spot him on radar. ATC: “We have radar contact, you are at 3000ft, 3 miles outbound of Daytona and there is no Thunderstorm at your 9 o'clock.” John did not know what to say, because he had his thunderstorm at 9 o'clock in sight and it came closer and closer, covering more and more of the blue sky. ATC told him to turn right about 90 degrees visually and remain on course, until further vectoring. He executed ATC's request and hoped for a good outcome. His gauges were still spinning in all random directions and he did not receive any constant information of them. However, he noticed that the closer the thunderstorm came to him, the faster the gauges started to spin. But John knew that this thunderstorm could not be in his imagination because it was right there, he could point at it with open eyes and see the rain and lightning coming out of the dark clouds. ATC did not talk to him now for 3 minutes and he was waiting for further vectoring. By now, the thunderstorm almost overtook him. “THSCHH, ROGR CLRANCE VISUL TSCHCHHH”. John desperately called up ATC, and asked if radio is still established. He didn't get any answer back; therefore, tried it again, and again, but nothing came back. He decided to descent without knowing how high he is, just hoping to find an airport visually. “This is my last chance,” John said. It seemed like he found a spot to land, it looked like a grass landing strip. He turned his aircraft towards it and continued descending. When he was at about 1500 ft AGL, ATC called him back. He was happy to hear from them and told them that he found a place to land. The thunderstorm is right above John right now, creating a lot of turbulence during his final approach for the grass strip. He was really scared that he is not going to make it and just prayed...

ATC: “Riddle 450, are you still there?”...[Background noise with high pitch screeching]ATC:”Riddle 450, you are not on our radar, are you still there?”...[four loud clicks through the radio]Radio:”TSCHHHCHHCHCHCHCHCHCHHCHCHCHCHCHH...........”