Adventures from primary flight training

One of the things you do when you are leaning to fly is go on cross-country flights with your instructor.  We were on our first cross-country over Sacramento somewhere when our engine started to sputter.  My CFI (certified flight instrutor) played with the throttle a little, no change.  He went full throttle, no change.  The engine started losing power.  He put the mixture full in, pull on carb heat, and went full throttle.  No change, the engine was barely turning by this time and no amount of jockeying the controls was bringing it back.  We were getting flight following from NorCal approach so my CFI called them back and declared an emergency.   They asked him what his intentions were and he told them to land at the nearest airport.  He kind of gave me a “what the heck are they thinking” look.

NorCal had us contact Mather AFB tower.  Mather cleared us to land on 22R.  So everything looked good we had the field in sight, had enough altitude to make the end of the runway, we were feeling good.  Then Mather calls us back and says “Cessna N##### can you extend your glide, they are working on the approach end of the runway.”

My CFI looked at me and this time said “What the *expletive deleted* did they just ask us to do?”  He paused for a few seconds carefully considering what to say and answered with, “Negative.”

As we glided closer we could see that the runway was completely torn up and there were guys scrambling off tractors and running.  We were later to find out all they were told was a plane was going to crash at the airport and they were in the way.  The taxiway next to the runway was perfectly clear, and about 10 times as wide as our home runway and 5 times as long.  We landed on the taxiway without incident and coasted to a stop on the ramp well off the taxiway.

Moments later a firetruck that was bigger than my house showed up and aimed a big foam nozzle at us.  They were all wearing spacesuits.  We climbed out of the airplane.  I foolishly shouted “Don’t shoot, we mean you no harm!”  It seemed funny to me at the time.  My CFI told me to shut up.  What happened next was right out of a comedy.  One of the firemen came up and asked what happened, he was pushed out of the way by a fireman who was not in a moon suit who then asked us what happened.  Then a AF officer showed up and asked us what was going on here.  He was interrupted by a higher ranking officer who asked us what we were doing there.  My CFI and I just kept exchanging “Are these guys for real” looks at each other.

Eventually the MP’s showed up and explained everything to everyone.  The big officer was going to go “talk” to someone in the tower.  The maintenance guys were going to tow our airplane over to the Aero Club hangar.  They brought a tug that was bigger than our airplane.  They were scratching their heads trying to figure out how to tow it.  I pulled the little red tow bar out of the back of the plane and handed it to them.  I remember one of them saying, “Look!  It’s got it’s own little tow bar!”  They rigged up a way using duct tape to attach the tow bar to their hitch and then took off toward the aero club.  Our little 150 almost got airborn they were moving so fast.

Meanwhile my CFI were put into two separate MP cars and driven back to the control tower.  We were taken into separate rooms and asked what happened.  We had to fill out forms declaring what had happened.  Finally after about two hours my CFI and I were taken to the pilot’s lounge to wait for a ride to the aero club.  The final irony for my CFI (a career AF man) was being required to fill out a landing permit.  I can still hear him grumbling “Next time I’m landing in a *a few expletives deleted* bean field!”

We got to the aero club and called our mechanic.  He told us not to let any of them touch the plane and that he would come look at it.  We got a ride to a local GA airport about 5 miles down the road and one of the local pilots from our airport picked us up.  The mechanic did go up and get the 150 but never could find anything wrong.  He flew it home.  I finished my training in the plane and never had another problem with

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