There are no Mulligans in flying...

The Wreck

I had left Tulsa under a light breeze with forecasts of twenty-two knot winds at our destination with gusts to thirty two. They would be from the northwest, perfectly aligned with the crosswind runway at our home base. I imagined it would be a bumpy flight but not a difficult one. I monitored each airport’s ATIS or AWOS along the way as I passed by, noting the increasing wind velocities as time went on, yet I flew along fully appreciating the opportunity to spend my day in the sky.

Approaching northwest Missouri I was distressed to hear of forty five knot gusts, but they remained perfectly aligned with runway three one. Putting my aircraft on the ground would be no big problem, but taxiing to parking would be a challenge. Touching down, I slowly taxied along the runway centerline, until carefully making a right turn onto Taxiway Bravo. Each gust tried to upset my fragile bird and I fought back with the ailerons, deflecting them in a direction that would assist in stabilizing the craft. The turn to Taxiway Alpha seemed less formidable with several minutes of taxi already behind me.

Over the years I had read everything I could get my hands on about Tri-Pacers, but I was completely unaware that I was about to enter into one of the most dangerous situations known to these aircraft, the turn from downwind taxi. I carefully worked at coordinating the aileron movements as I began the turn. Suddenly, with the gale force wind at our side, the tail began to rise as if being levitated by an alien force and in a split second the prop was grinding into the concrete taxiway. Witnesses described us as going up on our nose, spinning ninety degrees and falling over. I had no time to analyze the dance we were performing. We came down with a mighty crash, with pieces of Plexiglas and loose objects flying about the cabin. Hanging by a seat belt, I felt the need to escape. Undoing the belt and working my way out the already open door, I was met by a group of construction workers running towards me. Fuel was leaking and fire trucks were racing from their fire houses. With the wind still howling, papers and charts scattered across the ramp, stripping me of my last shreds of dignity. My world was in shambles.

A car pulled up and the driver informed me that the airport manager saw the entire spectacle and had summoned me to his office. He asked if the bump on my head was hurting. I reached up and found there actually was a bump. I had not noticed. I had no idea if it came from the initial crash or after falling from the grasp of the seat belt. I was numb, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The airport manager had already printed a document for me to sign, absolving the city of all responsibility. After that, the airport manager, aircraft mechanics, and a host of other fine people rallied to support me in my time of need. FAA and insurance company personnel each performed their appointed duties, taking what information I could give. Each asked if I was OK and reminded me that was the important thing.

As hours passed, I would find myself overcome by sudden waves of anger, sadness, and disbelief seemingly welling up out of nowhere.

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I had allowed the trustworthy flying machine that had faithfully taken me to the heights of rapture to be mortally wounded. I could not forgive myself.

The wind forecast had been very wrong, but the wind direction was favorable for landing. If there had not been construction on the parking ramp, I could have taxied directly to the hangar without the sharp turn onto Taxiway Alpha. I could list a dozen excuses and what-ifs, but I was the pilot in command and I had let myself be drawn into a dangerous situation. NTSB Report

But life goes on. I must NOT repeat my mistakes in my next airplane.....

Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.
-- Author Unknown --

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