There are moments in flying that never quite escape you. This is one for me.
I was flying a C-141A to Elmendorf AFB, AK with Phil F. one evening. He had taken the first leg to Dover AFB, DE from McGuire AFB, NJ. After taking on our cargo we headed North. As was the practice in those days we rotated seats. For this leg I was in the left or Aircraft Commander’s seat.
Everything was normal until we began to configure for landing. The flaps jammed at 3 percent, essentially a no-flap. I fully anticipated Phil to take control and fly as a no-flap constituted an emergency landing but he told me to continue flying.
Now, I have always loved EPs, emergency procedures. It is during these situations where I can really experience flying. Often it is during these situations where you have to have “good hands.”
So we declared an Emergency, ran the No-Flap check list and adjusted the airspeed as required – then settled into the approach. On C-141 no-flaps the aircraft was real sensitive to throttle inputs. So, once you were on speed, leave it alone! And it was imperative to have that speed just before beginning down the glide path. That night I nailed it and upon hitting the glide path all I had to do was reduce power a bit, and enjoy the ride.
The ride down the glide path was somewhat pleasurable. As advertised in training. Then the flare and landing went without incident – and we began rolling. The spoilers came out normally, and still we rolled. Then the Thrust Reversers were deployed, and we continued to roll. Without flaps this was expected, so no big deal. We had tons of runway available, and used most of it before turning off.
I never thought it was a big deal at all – I had fun with it all. But in retrospect that was one of those moments that really boosted my confidence in flying. Its one thing to perform EPs in the simulator; quite another in “real life.” I remain grateful to Phil today for giving me that opportunity as a young copilot…