When panic strikes …
Can you stand another Fighter Pilot Wisdom post?
Let’s start with another moment from our friend, fighter ace Giora Romm. Flying in the north of Israel on Day Two of the Six Day War, Giora’s Mirage IIIC got hit by an enemy missile. Here’s Giora describing his situation:
The plane was for the moment still airworthy but I knew I had to get on the ground fast. The nearest landing strip was about twenty kilometers south. I turned toward it and lowered my landing gear. But the missile had hit the Mirage’s undercarriage, right beneath my seat. Had the landing gear in fact lowered? I had no way to know. The indicator on the instrument panel had been knocked out by the missile strike.
What did Giora do?
It was late afternoon. The sun was low in the sky. I descended to near ground level and banked so that I could see my plane’s shadow on the ground.
Yes, the landing gear were down.
Another pilot from Giora’s squadron, Arnon Levushin, ran out of fuel on his first solo training flight. He could see the emergency landing field in the distance. He turned toward it. But did he have enough speed and altitude to reach the runway? No control tower could tell him. No gauges or instruments could make the call.
I lined up my pipper (the gunsight on the plane’s windscreen) with the forward edge of the runway. I figured as long as the targeting “X” stayed above the horizon line, my glide path was good. But if the pipper dropped below the apron of the runway, that meant I would not make it … and I’d have to start looking for a farmer’s field to crash-land in.
(Yes, Levushin made it.)
I love these stories because they inspire us all to use our noodles, as my mother would’ve said.
What clever solutions!
What simple, straightforward answers!
And how great that in moments of potential panic and paralysis, these fliers were able to keep their heads and come up with such smart and unorthodox solutions.