The Anonymous Widower

Incident at Leeds

I learned to fly soon after we moved to Ipswich in about 1974.  It had always been something that I’d want to do.  But C never flew with me for some years.

She probably flew with me some time in about 1986 for the first time and that was rather a hary flight to Prestwick, where because of bad weather we ended up in Glasgow.  It wasn’t bumpy, but there was just a lot of low cloud and we were above it, so you had the problem of getting into the airport.  But we did safely.

But she was always a nervous passenger.

Until that is we flew to Prestwick to see a horse we owned called Debach Dust run at the nearby Ayr racecourse.

The horse ridden by Kim Tinkler had shown her usual ability and had done nothing, so we weren’t all that pleased in many ways after flying all the way from Ipswich.  But it was a hell of a lot better than driving all that way and in that the trip up took about three hours as opposed to about seven or eight in a car.  In fact one trip on a Friday to that part of Scotland had taken twelve hours, so we knew the advantages of flying, even if C was very reluctant.

September 17th, 1988 was a beautifully clear day for flying, but I remember as Tango-Tango, my Piper Arrow cruised at a good altitude over the Southern Uplands of Scotland, the wind was making it rather bumpy.  C was sitting quietly beside me, trying to make as little fuss as possible.

To say all hell broke loose would be wrong, as it was just that after about an hour into the flight, that the oil pressure in the single engine was starting to fade and drop to zero.  In other words, we were losing oil and had to get down as quickly as possible. 

But before you think that this was a serious situation, I had several things in my favour.

The visibility was good and I could see northern England laid out before me, so if I had to land without power, there would have been plenty of wide open fields in which to do what every pilot dreads; a forced landing.

But more importantly, I was at 5,000 feet or so and I was only about 50 nautical miles from the major airport at Leeds.  It also was probably the nearest airport too, so the choice of where to go was made up for me.  Many air accidents have happened because pilots attempt to get to their home base.  I wasn’t going to take that risk, but I did prepare C for a bumpy emergency landing on the moors.

Throttling back and losing height slowly seemed to be the best thing to do and as I still had some oil pressure, I hoped that this action would get me to Leeds without losing all power. 

Now in all the bad films, you always call Mayday, when you are in trouble.  But in my case, I assessed that with an average amount of luck, I’d be OK.  Especially, as I had set up Leeds airport on my navigation equipment, so that I knew exactly where I was heading.  I also knew the airport quite well and also the problems that you sometimes get when approaching from the east due to downdrafts.

So I made what is a Pan-Pan call and Leeds cleared me to come in on Runway 09.  This would mean that I had the shortest distance to travel to land, but that I would have to land with a crosswind from the right.

Very little else happened and I turned on to finals at about eight hundred feet, so that if the engine decided to go completely AWOL, I would still make the runway.  I also knew that I had 1100 metres of runway, which was quite enough for the little Piper.

C kept absolutely quiet in all this time!  What she was thinking she never really told me!

But it all happened without incident and I landed Tango-Tango successfully with no problem and was able to taxi the plane off the runway to the light aviation terminal.

It wasn’t an easy journey from Leeds to Ipswich though.  There wasn’t a car hire firm open and in the end it was a taxi to the train station, a train to Peterborough and then a lift from there with our eldest son.

But C never again worried about going in a light aircraft with me. 

So much so that within a year we flew all around Australia in a similar Piper Arrow.

But that is another story!

May 3, 2010 - Posted by | Sport, Transport/Travel | , , ,


  1. I have flown many time with this pilot and all flights were in his larger twin aircraft and I have to say he was one of the best pilots I have ever flown with. My wife, C the pilot and I flew to South Wales from Ipswich and it was fantastic plus as C had someone to talk to about anything but flying she really enjoyed it.

    Comment by George Bell | May 3, 2010 | Reply

  2. […] and the last time was many years ago, when C took her first flight with me in Tango-Tango, my Piper Arrow.  In the last case, we were actually aiming for Prestwick, but weather meant a diversion to […]

    Pingback by To Glasgow and Back « The Anonymous Widower | September 30, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] was a partial engine failure and emergency landing at Leeds in a Piper Arrow en route from Prestwick to […]

    Pingback by The Most Dangerous Part of a Flight « The Anonymous Widower | July 30, 2011 | Reply

  4. […] had to do as you were told, even if she didn’t at other times. Especially, as when I had a partial engine-failure in a single-engined aircraft. She didn’t panic at all, did what I said and never worried […]

    Pingback by Fifty Shades of Grey « The Anonymous Widower | July 8, 2012 | Reply

  5. […] Engine failures on take-off are one of the biggest night-mare for a pilot. I never had one, but when I put full power on to lift my Cessna 340A piston-engined twin off the runway, I was always a bit nervous and running the emergency procedures through my mind. When I did have a partial engine failure it was in a single-engined Piper Arrow, but luckily I was five thousand feet above the ground. The full story is here. […]

    Pingback by Plan B Worked « The Anonymous Widower | May 24, 2013 | Reply

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