Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Night spraying

Pawnee 235


Wee Waa

Mid 1970

Its 3am in the morning, I've been flying all night.

I'm on my last field of cotton for the night, so as I cross the field spraying, I can see the trees at the edge of the field coming in-to view in my lights, I pull up! turning off my lights at the same time, to prepare for a procedure turn over the trees, as I rolled into the turn the engine failed! I immediately rolled straight and my mind screamed at me! " turn to the shortest route from over the trees,"
But which way? and by the way! these pawnees glide like bricks! with the spraying gear attached.
Now for the big guess? a mental picture of my surroundings enters my mind  ,left 30 degrees! speed to best glide ratio and wait. Fuel off, pumps off, dump the remainder of my load! to gain a wee bit of height and extend my glide.
I saw the darkness of the trees leave behind me, I must be around 60 feet above a crop! I am ,unable to use my lights, as they only shine straight out in front of me and would fail quickly on the battery only, plus I could loose my night vision.

I continued my decent until it started to get dark ( Ground effect) at that time I turned on the lights, I was  about to let down into standing sorghum crop, about 8 feet in height and I could see I was lined up along the crop rows, lucky so far?
Just before I struck the ground The lights were pushed into the wings by the crop and were now shining directly down, giving me no forward vision, as I trundled along in the standing crop. my mind was shouting at me "Don't turn over ! Don't turn over" lucky for me the main wheels stayed in the rows, right up until I stopped!
Then the lights lost power! thats what happens, after a less than a minute! When you try to run  one quarter of a million candle power without the generator running.
I dropped my door as soon a possible! releasing my harness and climbed out with my helmet on.
I made off at my best panic speed and at right angles to the rows! with fire foremost in my mind? fortunately I was only two plane widths into the field and then there was an irrigation channel, which I jumped into and made my way across. Funny feeling being in the water with your crash helmet on! climbing out the other side proved to be a bit of a problem due to the slippery mud, very draining  on what puff I had left, I took off my helmet and threw it ashore, taking a deep breath I made a charge at the bank  crawling and slipping up the bank, like a baby croc, must have took 5 minutes to get my breath back, laying in the mud, sitting there I saw at least 6 aircraft spraying in the area!  Strange nobody had seen me drop out of sight.?
Not long after I saw lights from  a car coming along the track beside the channel as it stopped the driver and got out, when he saw me  sitting in the mud?
It was my loader driver! He came looking for me! after I didn't come back? What a good ole boy!
When I asked him "why he had picked this spot"?  he said "its the only place you could ever get down alive! without striking the trees". Placing a couple of rocks for markers, for when we came back, we returned to base, I wrote a wee note for the engineer and went home to bed.
The next day around noon I returned to the plane and had to get over the  channel again, but this time the engineer had a dingy, neat! he had even retrieved my helmet.
There was not a lot wrong with the aircraft and the engineer ask"  if I would fly it out"?  back to base, for a full inspection, after he replaced the propeller, carburetor, and removed the spraying gear and of course after ground running the engine, plus he would get the farmer to put the roller over the crop to flatten it.
All of this took over a day, so I turned up the next day and walked up and down the rolled crop.
It was impossible to turn the aircraft across the rows! so it would be a straight down the rows departure. the engineer gave me a permit to fly so I jumped into  the ole girl and started her up, engine run up was fine, so I gave the engineer the thumbs up and went for full power, firstly she was a bit slow to move over the flattened crop and I was a little concerned we may be pushing our luck a bit ! but then she leaped foreword and began to increase speed and before I knew it she was airborne and I flew her back to base, staying away from the trees.
I was out spraying the next night in the spare aircraft,   just part of the job.

1 comment:

  1. wow that's amazing, I would be too afraid to fly for a little after something like that!


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