From an OUTSTANDING to an Excellent – in 17 Seconds…

I took a Navigation check ride on 15 May 1984 as part of an Air Training Command (ATC) Headquarters Stan/Eval inspection.  At the time I was the Chief of Check Section in the 560th FTS.  I was tagged to fly with Capt. Rick R., a former FAIP (First Assignment IP) from Vance.  I knew Rick when he was a student, and a young IP, so I wasn’t apprehensive at all flying with him.

Our primary job in the 560th was to teach new guys how to fly and instruct from the T-38 back seat.  In this capacity, we would fly in the front seat.  However, we still had to maintain proficiency from the back seat also.  So Rick came up with this profile where I would fly to Dyess AFB, TX in the rear seat, then come home in the front seat.  My ‘instruction’ then became somewhat convoluted in that it had to match the seat I was flying from.

The flight up to Dyess was pretty straight-forward, without incident.  After landing we swapped seats – actually the most difficult part of the check ride, and had lunch.  Then after lunch it was back to Randolph.  And again, the mission went as briefed until the last 17 seconds.

For our final approach and landing, I had to fly a simulated single-engine approach and landing.  I had flown literally thousands of these patterns, without incident.   However, on this day…

The ‘book’ says that we configure with Gear and 60% Flaps until ‘landing is assured.’  Then we were to select Full Flaps.  This was usually interpreted to be over a point the ground – like just as we came over the overrun.

Well, crap!  On this day, and I don’t know why, about 17 seconds out (yes, I did the math) I selected Gear and Full Flaps right off the bat.  And I recognized my error right away!  Usually this would be a ‘fatal mistake,” especially when flying with a FAIP!  And I knew it was.

The problem with bringing the flaps back to 60% at this point was the risk of bringing them to the Flaps Up position.  In a simulated single-engine configuration, with one engine reduced to 60% power, this would not be good.  So, I decided to put it all on the FAIP!

“Well, look there Rick,” I began instructing, “I inadvertently put the flaps to ‘Full.’  If I jerk them back to 60% I run the risk of raising them all the way up.  And take note of our airspeed – it’s 10 knots ‘hot,’ and now decreasing.”  At this time we were just crossing the approach end overrun, so I continued.

“So now, as we come across the overrun, our airspeed is ‘On Speed,’ runway is clear, Throttles to Idle, Flare – hold it, hold it, touchdown – on speed.”

Now Rick had a problem; and so did I.  Yes, I had not ‘conventional’ paradigm for ‘landing assured;’ but from when I selected Full Flaps, it was a picture-perfect approach though touchdown.  I just let it drop on the way in, and we taxied in, in silence.

When we got into the squadron Rick sought out the evaluation team chief.  After 10 minutes or so, he came into my office and we debriefed.

I ended up with a “Satisfactory” grade on my simulated single-engine approach, and an “Excellent” overall.  I never harbored any ill feelings toward Rick; it was my hands on the controls, and my head up my ass.  It’s just a shame he never recognized the pure beauty of the approach  – the quick, clever ‘recovery’ from a sure Unsat!

I held onto this experience for the remainder of my flying career.  Not to continually “beat myself up,” but to remind myself to keep flying the jet until the last part stops moving!  LOL…

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