COOLSTONE had been chosen because of his wide and varied flying experience to transport a two-star to a conference in a T-33.
They landed at their destination successfully, and the general then released Coolstone to return from whence they came. He was to come back in about four days to pick up the stars again.
It was on the return trip that Coolstone gained even more experience. He filed into his destination from a base about 700 miles out. His destination was reporting low ceilings and visibilities, and he knew delays would be most probable at this busy base.
He looked for the nearest alternate he could find, and came up with one about 70 miles away. However, the weather at his alternate was nothing fancy either, but he figured he would arrive at his destination with over 270 gallons of fuel, if the winds held at all. He could then hang around for 20 minutes or so, until he got down to about 200 gallons, at which time he would have to make a move.
The flight was uneventful until he reached a point about 15 minutes out from his destination. Here the Center directed him to descend to 26,000 and cleared him to the penetration omni. His estimate for the omni was 10 past the hour.
On the hour he was advised to enter the holding pattern when he arrived at the penetration omni, to expect approach clearance at 20, and to contact the Approach Control immediately. At 12 past the hour, as Coolstone read the clock, he arrived at the omni on instruments in the weather. He had 264 gallons as the station swung.
He called Approach Control and told them that he was entering the holding pattern.
“Roger,” said Approach Control. “Your new expected approach time is 31. Expect clearance to a lower altitude at 25.”
Using a rule of thumb – four gallons a minute – Coolstone figured he would be right at alternate fuel requirements at approach time. Really he would be below the 200 gallons he had planned as alternate fuel, but upon refiguring, he decided that 180 would be rock bottom minimum which, by great coincidence, would be about what he would have remaining at 31.
He made two circuits of the holding pattern before he solved it. This had been rather exciting. Four minutes remained until approach time. He figured a 360 would just about do it.
He called Approach Control.
“This is Coolstone One. How does the approach time of 31 look?”
“Coolstone from Approach Control. Stand by one.”
This wasn’t too heartening. It sounded to Coolstone like they might extend it once again. He then called Approach Control and asked them what the weather was at his alternate.
“Roger,” said Approach Control. “Stand by one.”
Maybe, thought Coolstone, about a third of the way through his 360, I’d better look at that alternate approach; 180 gallons might not do it if they have an involved penetration.
Flying the aircraft with his knees, he thumbed quickly through the letdown book, attempting to locate the plate for his alternate. He ruffled through the book rather quickly at first, and was unable to locate it. Then he backed up and started down page by page in the general area. At this point the aircraft had assumed a rather interesting attitude, and required Coolstone’s undivided attention for a second or two.
He was about halfway through his 360, and once again he gave his attention to the letdown book. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit, he thought, not to have a plate under the field name. He didn’t know what else it could be under, but he was sure the book-makers could think of something.
Then he tried the index, dividing his attention between the fine print and the instruments, without doing justice to either. He was about 40 degrees from the inbound heading, when he had made it through the index, and now he was willing to bet that the alternate just didn’t have a penetration.
Then it dawned on him! He looked at the back of the book again, sure enough, his alternate was shown to be about an eighth of an inch beyond the book’s coverage. He was starting to fumble for the letdown book which covered the area of his alternate, when Approach Control called.
“Coolstone One from Approach Control. You’ll be cleared for a penetration at 33. Weather is reported to be 400 foot overcast, three miles, and rain.”
The Approach Controller went on to tell Coolstone that his alternate weather was reported at 800 foot overcast, two miles, and rain.
“Roger, boy,” said Coolstone. “Is that approach time firm?”
“Coolstone from Approach Control, it looks good now. Give us a call departing the high station.”
Coolstone was at a loss to figure how he could get to the station at 33, since he was already over the station at 31, but, game to the core, he cranked his bird up into a 45 degree bank, and around he went. He noted his fuel was 170, and accepted the fact that the alternate was out the window.
Well, he thought, at least that’s one problem that’s behind me. Even with the good try, it looked like he was going to be a minute late for his arrival over the station. This he was quite proud of, considering the shape he was in at the last extention.
He was about to call “Beginning penetration,” when Approach Control called him.
“Coolstone from Approach Control. This is to advise you that this base is on official business only. If you land without orders, you will be violated.”
But Coolstone didn’t hear, for while he was attempting to roll out on the penetration heading, he noted his slave gyro had ceased turning. He increased his bank automatically, and checked the horizon. He was already over 45 degrees, but the compass wasn’t budging.
Then, before his very eyes, it began rapid 360 gyrations. Quickly he checked the inverter light, and found it out, then the horizon flag, which was not showing. Then he noted his No. 2 needle, which was holding steady, although the compass card was rotating with the slave gyro.
“Er, ah, Approach Control. Coolstone One here. I’m having a little trouble with my gyros. What channel is radar?”
“Coolstone One from Approach Control. Did you get the transmission about the violation?”
“Violation?” said Coolstone. “What violation? I need radar. My slave gyro is out.”
“Roger, Coolstone. Operations advises that this base is for official business only, and even with orders you need prior approval for landing. You will be violated if you land here.”
Coolstone had devoted every brain cell he could spare, three, to Approach Control, and the remaining millions were all busily engaged in a maximum effort trying to remember and apply the omni procedure to be used when the gyros were out.
“Roger, Approach Control. I need radar. Have started my penetration, but my gyros are out. What channel for radar?”
“Assume you understand the information on the violation, Tombstone. Radar is on 268.3. Over.”
“Look, Approach Control, that’s Coolstone One, not Tombstone. I’m going to radar now.” He switched channels. “Radar, this is Coolstone One, somewhere in the penetration. I need a no gyro approach, but quick.”
“Coolstone from Radar. I read you five square. How me?”
“Radar from Coolstone. Five by, but my gyros are out. Do you have me?”
“Coolstone from Radar. Squawk two. And this is to advise you that if you land at this base, you will be violated? Do you understand?”
“Roger, boy, I understand, but I need a gyro out approach. Do you understand?”
“Roger, Tombstone. Squawk three. The AO just called and said to tell you that you are directed to proceed to your alternate. You cannot land here. What are your intentions?”
“Look, Radar,” said Coolstone, very deliberately and enunciating very clearly. “My compass is out. I don’t know where I am in the penetration. Give me a steer and tell the AO that I’m not going to my alternate. I intend to land at your base if I don’t have to bail out, and that’s Tomb. . . , er Coolstone One. Have you got the message?”
“Roger, Tombstone. You intend to land here in spite of the violation, and your gyro’s out.”
“That’s Coolstone, not Tombstone, and do you have me on your weapon?”
“Squawk two again for ID, Tomb … er, Coolstone, and turn right to 40 degrees. You have badly overshot the final turn. Do you wish a gyro-out approach?”
“Do I ever?” said Coolstone. “My gyro is out.”
“Tomb … , er, Coolstone from Radar. Turn right now.” And then, with his mike keyed, Controller added, “Roll out now. And the AO advises that there is no parking space, due to a big high-level conference involving lots of generals. Refueling will be delayed at least four hours. There is no BOQ space. What are your intentions?”
“Keep running this approach, Radar,” Coolstone said, almost pleadingly. “I’m hurting. I understand the AO’s message, that will be fine.”
The gyro-out approach was continued to where the descent was to be started. At this point GCA had Coolstone on centerline, and called once again.
“Coolstone from GCA. The AO advises that you will not be able to take off from here until tomorrow. Start your radar descent now if you still want to land.”
“That will be just fine,” said Coolstone, weakly, and added, “Starting descent now.”
Coolstone broke out at about 400 feet with the windscreen full of rain which seemed to be freezing on contact. He finally picked up the runway lights and, looking out the side panels, he got a visual on the runway. It wasn’t much of a visual, but enough to make a touchdown of sorts. He raised his flaps, gave a big sigh of relief, and tapped his brakes.
Immediately the bird did a little trick to the left.
Quickly Coolstone tromped on the right rudder.
The nose remained left, but the bird was skidding down the runway in the general direction of the runway heading.
Slowly, as he jabbed both the right brake and the right rudder, the nose began to come back. As far as braking action was concerned, he had nothing.
With about 4,000 feet to go, Coolstone in desperation stopcocked the engine, opened the canopy, and with full rudder deflections worked mightily to keep the bird any place on the runway. His braking action was just full of technique. He tapped them softly; the bird skidded and veered. He jammed them both on hard, and the bird skidded and veered. He pulled the stick back and tried it; the bird skidded and veered.
Then, as he entered the overrun, doing about 30 or 40 knots, he now began to get some deceleration on the slightly rougher surface. As the nose went off the overrun into the mud, he got the bird stopped.
Coolstone sat still for a second, quite thankful to be in a minimum number of pieces, then called GCA. He said,
“I appreciate greatly all the information on the parking space, refueling delay, BOQ space, violations, the news item on the generals’ conference, and the personal interest taken in my flight by the AO. But did anyone advise you today about the braking action on this runway? I’m off the end and need a tow.”
“Negative, Coolstone. We have no information on braking action. However, this is a new runway, and you might expect it to be slick when wet.”
“Roger, Radar. Tombstone One out.”