Wisdom in the Bush(es)

Amal Ajmi & her

Amal Ajmi & her PA-11

Amal Ajmi lives in Alaska and flies in the Fairbanks area. If you’ve been around LadiesLoveTaildraggers a while, you’ve read one or more of her contributing posts. She’s good – really good! I recently asked Amal to send me an update on her AK flying and she responded in spades. I read her email, then I reread it and made a few notes to self. I tell you people, we’re all out there pushing ourselves to be the best pilots we can be and this timely message from Amal is one we can learn from.

Reminiscing over last summer’s learning experiences…

As I sit in my warm cozy home….the wood stove is ablaze and it is 30 below outside….I think about flying soon, and I consider last year and what I learned…

There were two major events I walked away from with more wisdom…. Ah wisdom…don’t we all wish we could just HAVE it…without the learning part? Well, maybe I can give it and maybe you can take it…for what it’s worth. I will keep it short with the first episode and maybe relate the second at a later date…

I like to practice….a lot.  So much so I decided to practice off airport landings at a VERY short Cub strip.  Although my little bird is a special cub (PA11)…I wanted to try to be SUPER (PA18). Needless to say, I got in over my head, and ended up doing a lot of cutting and dragging to get my bird out and back to town.

Amal Ajmi

This picture is from a strip to the east of Fairbanks…..a NICE strip compared to what I was trying to get into.

I went around the little strip several times, dragging it, then tried to land and bounced once and went around again. The next time I came in, bounced once and really felt I could land her….I bounced again and being stubborn kept trying to land her.  I was running out of “run way” and scary trees were coming up fast.  I put the coals to her, but knew if I tried to fly out then, I would stall out and fall out of the sky….I decided to do the best I could on the ground, I braked heavy and forced a ground loop to stop her before hitting the trees. Yeah…it worked, and there was minimal damage. I was lucky.  It took 2 hours to get her out of the stobs and back onto the “strip”.  Did a lot of cursing at myself cuz I knew better!!! But mostly all I could think at the time was “Thank goodness my plane is so light!!!” It could have been worse…so much worse.  I came away with a few tidbits. I made at least 2 bad judgment calls:

1)    I ignored the “One bounce rule”!!!! When the old timers tell you to follow that rule…they are so right!! GO around for crying out loud!!!

2)    I really wanted to get in there. You know what……If you can’t do it…you can’t do it!!!! It doesn’t mean you will never get in there…it just means that today is not your day! Leave it and go someplace else.

I did come away with a positive:  Know your plane!!!! It could have been so much worse. I had to decide to either try to fly her out at low speed over a 50’ obstacle or keep her on the ground.  I knew…I just knew she would not make it.  Her engine told me she was too slow…I didn’t even have to look at the airspeed indicator.  I knew I had enough room to brake and loop her resulting in far less damage then a stall…so I opted for that.

I was grounded for a month fixing the minimal damage…in the middle of summer!!! That was more painful than the financial setback.
Sometimes we know better, sometimes we are lucky….sometimes we get bit…this time I think I fall under all the above….Be safe…listen to what you have been told by those that are wiser….take your time….and for crying out loud….GO AROUND!!!!


LLT pilot, Amal - Kobuk - AK

LLT pilot, Amal – Kobuk – AK

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