Learning Experiences: 05/06


Im a 1000-hour Bonanza pilot with a fair amount of actual IMC experience. I was on my way to the Dekalb-Peachtree Airport outside of Atlanta, a route I fly fairly often. The last hour of the flight was IMC, with the PDK ATIS reporting 800 feet overcast in light rain. Piece of cake; Ill shoot the ILS approach to Runway 20L. Heck, I might even turn off the iPod and hand fly this one.

I was feeling on top of my 40-something game; I even remembered to check in with the ATIS letter when handed off to approach. Soon I was getting vectors to intercept the 20 Left localizer.

The controller: Bonanza 12345, you are three miles from Chamb, maintain 3000 until established, cleared to the ILS 20L approach, contact tower on 120.9.

Me: PDK tower, Bonanza 12345, 3000 feet, ILS 20L inbound. At this point I was 1.5 miles from the outer marker, which is where well-trained Bonanza pilots put down the gear and start riding the ILS rails down to terra firma at 115 knots. The female tower controller greeted me with a warm, smooth, sexy voice.

Tower: Bonanza 12345 there is a Learjet 3 miles in trail, please give me best forward speed for as long as possible.

Chivalry being alive and well, of course I can help out this damsel in distress. Ill keep the flaps and gear up until I break out, pop the flaps and gear later, and do a big city airport slam dunk approach. Shell love me for it.

Me [in my most macho voice]: No problem, well keep the speed up. 12345.

Now heres where it got interesting: I had never before ridden the glideslope in the clean configuration. Not only did I keep the speed up, I found that staying on the glideslope meant being well above the flap and gear extension speeds, even with the power way back into the shock-cooling zone.

The little voice in my head was saying, Dude, at some point youre going to have to pitch up to slow down enough to throw out the gear and flaps.

I started doing mental math on whether I could break out at 800 feet, level off, dirty the airplane up quick and then dive for the runway. Not a bad recovery plan, although as I rapidly careened through 700 feet, I was still in IMC.

Just when I was about to declare defeat to my princess in the tower and do a truly impressive high-speed missed, I broke out at 650 feet.

Me: Tower, 12345 is going to the far end of the field. Id like permission to land a little on the long side.

Tower (in her sultry voice): 12345, side step to Runway 20R is approved. Its one mile further, which should give you plenty of time to slow down.

I sidestepped to the right, slowed, dropped gear and flaps, landed and had a reusable airplane. I also had another valuable lesson at the school of hard knocks.

The moral of the story: When youre with a hot woman, its better to take charge and do things nice and slow.


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