Battered By Turbulence
By: Don Stefanik
John Evans, an ex-Air Force Aurora crew member, was instructing at a flying school near Montreal, Quebec. One morning he set off in the school's Challenger to visit a friend some distance away. He was not radio equipped so he could not hear the SIGMET broadcast to warn of extremely strong winds.
As he headed east around Montreal he discovered ever increasing winds accompanied with ever increasing turbulence. John is an experienced pilot and had flown through a hurricane in an Air Force Aurora so he was familiar with extreme conditions. As the winds grew steadily stronger, John decided to land at a sky diving field near Farnham, Quebec. When he got there, however, the wind was at 90 degrees to the narrow strip and gusting over 60 mph.
He abandoned that plan and decided to head back to St. Jean Airport about 15 miles to the west. That day the wind was from the south, at 90 degrees to his course. He soon found that the winds had increased to the point where, even though the ultralight was doing over 80 mph, the crab angle necessary to stay on course was so acute that for long periods of time he was making no progress towards St. Jean. At some points he was staying in place or even going backwards.
The turbulence was as severe as any he had ever encountered. Progress was so slow that fuel was becoming an issue even though he only had a short distance to go. He had little choice but to fly as fast as he could, although this meant flying in the yellow arc of the airspeed indicator which is only permitted in calm conditions. Finally, battered by turbulence, he was almost there and looking down at runway from 3,000 feet. At that moment an exceptionally violent vortex of turbulence caught him and actually flung the Challenger on its back.
By the time John rolled back to level flight he found the engine had quit, as it was not equipped with an inverted fuel system. Much lower now, he pushed the stick forward to penetrate the wind to prevent drifting out of range of the runway. He stopped looking at the airspeed indicator as the needle passed into the red zone as otherwise he was not going to clear the perimeter fence. He landed at the airport but short of the runway and then was unable to get out of the plane because to do so would have resulted in it being blown back into the fence.
Eventually help arrived by car and, with several people holding on to the wings, he was able to taxi to a tie-down and secure the airplane safely. As in Jim's case, Aero Structure inspected the plane from stem to stern. Again, no damage. Fortunately in both these incidents there were experienced pilots on board. They certainly had moments of fear and doubt about the ability of the Challenger to live through the pounding. These stories have happy endings because the pilots never gave up. They never stopped flying the plane.
These stories are from Ian Coristine and his ( Thanks for the Memories) column and Copa Magazine.