Saturday, June 04, 2011

Flying with a BANSHEE

As a single young man with USAF in my past, I thought that maybe a hot date would come out of a nice Saturday morning flight back in 1967. I called 'Brother Burke'.. He was a young preacher and US Air Force noncom officer friend. Our other friend was USAF Sergeant 'Larry'. We three often enjoyed going up on the weekends... if we could scrounge enough money. I was flush with cash that weekend, so we rented a low winger with four seats.. and a larger engine.. Brand spanking new, still had the thin plastic film on the seats. We were impressed.

We four all excitedly piled into this brand new plane, Burke at the controls, with Larry in right seat. Myself and the newly found potential girlfriend in back. 'She was sitting behind pilot Burke'. I was behind Larry (this is important, as you will read later).

Beautiful cool morning in NM with light breeze, perfect visual flying conditions. In light traffic, clearance from tower, we happily taxied to position and lifted off after a short roll. We banked and headed up around northwest of the 10,500 ft (3,200m) Sandia Mountain Crest, still towering over us. Following the Rio Grande (river) north toward Santa Fe while gaining altitude, we anticipated a great day of flying like always. Flight plan was to also include a stopover with lunch in Santa Fe before cruising the always interesting mountains. With the larger engine, high altitude mountain flying with substantial airspeed is much more enjoyable.

Along the way of our sight seeing plan, Burke spotted the New Mexico state prison off to the south. It was still used as a state prison back then. The deadly Santa Fe Penitentiary Riot
  • was in the future. The daring Helicopter escape from the 'prison yard'
  • had not happened yet, so no flight restrictions were in place. Burke put us into a right wing low, circle to look into the prison yard. We were at substantial altitude, did one or two circles looking at the prison far below, then leveled off to head north for SF.

    Like an uncaged animal, that girl unbuckled and instantly climbed over top of Burke...our pilot. She twisted and unlatched the ceiling door handle, saying "I'm Getting out of here". The door was sucked up and the wind roar was incredible as it lifted from the airflow. Our charts were racing around in a tornado in that cockpit. With her full body weight and strength on top of him, Burke was pressured forward onto the yoke.... We were forced into a spiral dive..... and inverted.

    Burke was hollering "Get her off me, Get her off". Larry grabbed her throat and started choking her. He had no leverage from the right seat. I just yanked her hair back and with full adrenalin clenched fist, started rapidly punching the right side of her head with all my force, until I knocked her senseless. Larry pushed her limp body back off Burke as we rapidly spiraled in toward the mesa.

    I do recall the strange view from the inside of the cockpit. Like a wild inverted amusement park ride where you are seeing spinning earth upward through the plexiglass, brief glimpse of spinning horizon you can't focus on, and not any sky where it should normally be. Seat belt felt like it was tightening like a vice in the negative G's. Girl was pressed against the cabin ceiling, wedged above Burke..

    Just barely in time, Burke expertly regained control from the inverted spin and pulled out.... with pucker bushes in close proximity to our wing tip. Using the incredibly heavy G's, I then used a choke hold and forced that girl down into the floor, locking her down with my entire body. Larry reached up, grabbed the handle as burke flared, and we began climbing back out of the hair raising Kamikazi dive. Larry got the door re-locked and now with a clean airflow at very low altitude, we turned back to ABQ.

    In Dead silence.....

    Once Larry and I got her off his back, and the young preacher 'Burke' somehow pulled us out of it, things calmed down in the cockpit. Burke told us later, he Never Ever did anything remotely like that recovery in all his hours of flying,... and never desired to try it again.

    Gradually regaining all of that lost altitude, we followed the Rio Grande back south. That Banshee had finally recovered her composure, she said from the floor, "I'm feeling sick". I replied "deal with it, I'm Not letting you up". She said calmly from the floor, do you have a bag? Larry found the now crumpled chart at his feet and handed it to me. I formed it into a bag and clamped it down around her head. She then 'ralphed' until she was dry heaving. Larry fully opened the ventilation to release the fragrance.

    Silence.... Burke and Larry noticed that wind had come up over ABQ since we left there earlier. We watched as large hot air dust devils were forming on the south mesa somewhat near the airport far below us. Burke got tower instructions to come in from the east due to the now warm, prevailing west wind shift, so we circled out over the Manzano mountains and in through the east mountain Tjeras canyon for descent.

    As we were on final, the canyon buffeting got pretty rough. I had by then, reseated her and refastened tightly, the Banshee's seat belt and covered the lock with my gripped hand. We were about one hundred feet above the pavement, on straight and level approach, with required throttle for conditions..... Out of nowhere, with no warning we were caught in an invisible whirlwind over the paved runway. A big one...

    It hit the right wing from below, fast and without warning, standing us right wing up. Burke instantly gave full right aleron to level out and the tornado pressure reversed as we flew through the center of it. The right wing immediately went straight down in a cartwheel position toward the runway as Burke the preacher said loudly... 'SHIT'. He immediately corrected us flat again and we pancaked tricycle onto the runway with a loud 'Scrunch' that instantly put our chins on our chests.

    Rollout was smooth and we hurried back to the tie down before another whirlwind got us, turned in that now thouroughly tested new plane with it's newly adjusted door, and some definetly loosened gear suspension and wing fittings. I never dated that Banshee
  • again, but found out later that I worked with her brother. An experienced cross country ferry pilot...... He told me that his sister had always been hesitant of planes and had never flown before in her life. I told him she will probably never ever fly again, but if she does, watch her like a hawk. It's one thing to act suicidal, but others may not feel like participating at that time thank you.

    Just one more Blogengeezer story from life in the USA. The greatest Nation the World has ever seen. "One Nation Under God"

    Post a Comment

    << Home