I swear, my first ever ILS approach in a plane felt a little like this guy describes Chuck’s approach. Coming from the helicopter side, where you can fly the whole maneuver at 90 knots or less, everything “came up on me a little fast” the first time I tried this with a plane. On top of that, we were flying a friends Bonanza which is way too much airplane for the old Cessna 172 private pilot that I am. But somehow it all worked out by the time we ended up around our decision height.
Or have you ever felt like you accidentally did something that worked out really well in the end even though you didn’t quite mean to do it that way initially? Did you fess up to it, or did you tell people you meant to do that? 😉
One event from a long time ago sticks out in my memory. I was slinging a crashed helicopter out of the mountains to be loaded onto a waiting truck. It is often a gamble how an external load on a long line will actually fly underneath the helicopter and I have been surprised a couple of times in my career. We all know a helicopter body is somewhat aerodynamic, but when it is all crumpled up, all bets are off. This wreck lifted off ok, the skids were still intact, but the blades were off and the tailboom got chopped off by the crash landing, so it was missing. Getting some forward airspeed the load started to spin. That didn’t really worry me since the whole thing was attached to a swivel hook. I started to worry when I was about to bring in the load near the truck. I initially had planned to set the load either directly on the truck, or next to it first, depending on how things went. However, that plan was forged before I knew how much this load was spinning in the downwash and under forward speed.
So here I am flying in this load and it turned out that the location of the truck was a lot warmer than anticipated even though it was down the hill from where I picked the wreck up from. And there was a tiny bit of a breeze. I was able to arrest the decent at the end of my approach in what seemed thinner air because of the increased temperature, but that was all the power I had available. Now we’re just hanging there with the helicopter at 100% and nothing left to maneuver and drifting towards the truck with the load still spinning. “I guess we’re going for the truck” I thought hoping not to put the skids from the crashed helicopter through the windshield or something. Somehow, the load stopped spinning right over the truck and the skids lines up with the truck bed perfectly making everybody think I timed all that perfectly or meant to do it that way. In reality, it was almost all luck. We could have drifted past the truck, or into the cabin of the truck, or slipped the load off the truck; there are a hundred different ways this could have gone wrong.
I didn’t admit to everybody there that day, that most of it was a lucky shot. But I did tell my crew about it later since there was a valuable lesson about density altitude in there for all of us …