Tom Horne

Watch out for the birdie

April 10, 2008 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

Flew down to Sun ‘n Fun yesterday, in Tom Haines’ A36 Bonanza. Aboard were Haines, Ian Twombly, and myself.

Took the usual route, Frederick to Montebello, to Lynchburg, to South Boston, then on to Sand Hills and a destination in South Carolina. First leg: 2+45 to Marion County Airport (MAO).

Next leg took us over Savannah. About five miles north, a controller stopped in mid-sentence, saying “I think I hear a Mayday.”

We heard it too. On 118.40, the approach frequency at SAV. ” … 172WG …. hit a bird …. medical attention….” came the broken transmissions from the Skyhawk. The pilot was immediately cleared to land.

As we overflew the airport we could see the ambulance driving to the approach end of Savannah’s Runway 9. From our perch at 4,500 feet we saw the Skyhawk flying down final. The landing appeared unventful, with the airplane remaining on the centerline.

“I think it’s bird blood,” the stricken pilot said. Sighs of relief all around. Makes you think. I’ve ALMOST flown into birds–or is it the other way around?–so I know that instant feeling of imminence. This pilot’s experience made me wonder if I could pull off as good a landing.

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