By lex, on February 17th, 2009
When I was a department head stationed in Japan, we used to head down to Iwo Jima for our field carrier landing practice. The FA-18 is a lovely piece of kit, but she’s nobody’s idea of quiet in the landing pattern. The Kanto Plain is exuberantly populated, and the locals – possessing little in the way of “personal space” as it is understood in the West – are nevertheless fiercely protective of their wa. Hornets flying multiple landings over their head at all hours of the evening at approach power conforms to no notion of their harmony.
So it was off to Iwo we would go.
It was a wee, sma’ airport very far from everything. Volcanic in origin, with hot steam filtering up from the caves where General Kuribayashi sent his men charging wildly into the invaders’ ranks. Six hundred miles from everything, which meant that once you’d burned down to landing weight, it was Iwo or bust. No diverts were available. Land or swim.
There were sharks in the swimming areas.
The weather was unpredictable. One black night I lifted off a touch-and-go and noticed a bit of low hanging fog over the departure end. By the time I’d made another circuit, the weather had gone down to minimums. Or maybe less. Rather than grading our landings for debrief, the landing signal officers at the runway threshold were helping us “get aboard.” It was that bad.
I made a full-stop landing, and told the rest of the folks airborne to do the same. By the time I cleared the runway and headed to parking, it was too socked in to taxi. I couldn’t see my wingtip from the cockpit. The taxi light only added to the confusion.
I’ve talked about how the airline pogues fly into weather we wouldn’t brief in. Let Tailspin Tom show you what I mean.