All I have to say is "phew!" Thank God tonight is over. It is late, however, and I'm really quite tired but wanted to share with you something I feel strongly about. Maybe you'll think I'm a sap or maybe you'll give your loved one an extra long hug tonight-- I know I will-- even though she's sleeping soundly in bed. I wrote my wife an email because I had to get it out of my head what I was thinking and what happened. It is about a night flight I made only hours ago and it is my first real emergency-- and boy, I got two for the price of one! All I have to say is that you've got to love the one's your with.
"Hi-- its me :o) It is nearing 2AM on Tuesday and I can't really sleep right now so I will just write to you instead.
Tonight was like any other night, except that I wasn't with you. I have felt badly all day for not going with you to the ranch. I should have-- and I know that. Just as soon as the words left my lips telling you that I would not go, I knew I was wrong. But pride or apprehension, whatever it may have been, kept me from reversing that decision. I regret that, too. I should have been with you-- so long as you want me to, I should be with you wherever you go. Tonight has proven that to me-- and in ways far too real for me. You see, tonight, while I was on my night cross-country to Lamar and back, my plane went dark. Suddenly, what were faint dots of light in the sky, the stars became the only light I had by which to know what was up and what was down. The airport I was intending to land at was still far off in the distance-- but I was too far to turn back. It may sound like I'm being dramatic, but it is the eerie feeling of the sudden and consuming darkness that made a shiver run through my body. Below me was nothing-- it might as well have been a chasm or canyon or even the huge ocean-- there was nothing in the short distance in the event things got worse. Lamar got closer at an agonizingly slow rate and no matter what I did, the electrons that only minutes ago guided my way were all gone. I was simply monitoring my systems when I noticed my overhead light was out. I fiddled with it but it did not respond so I turned it off. Then I scanned my instruments again and one by one, each light went out. I glanced at my engine instruments and one by one, they all went dark-- as if someone was picking them off like birds on a wire-- darkness. It was so dark my eyes struggled to open as wide as they could. But the strange thing is, when there is no light, your eyes just will not work. Not only could I see what my plane was doing, but no one could see me, either. I had no transponder and no outside lights. Lamar eventually got within range and thankfully the runway lights were on. It is a non-controlled airport and the lights must be turned on with 5 clicks of my radio on a certain frequency-- but I had no radio to click. I didn't know why they were already on but they were and they shone through the darkness like an oasis, a beacon even. I pointed my plane to the closest runway and made my slow descent. It was then that my engine stopped.
Only the movement of air about my plane could be heard, except quite possibly my heart beating furiously. It was then that I could not help but to think that my last day and moments of life were not spent with you. That I was too stupid to stay with you, that you were upset with me-- that those people I meant to avoid and in doing so hurting you kept me from spending what time I had left alone. I was too far from the airport to make it and I knew it. Such things should not go through your head when an emergency such as this exists but there I was, in the utter darkness and silence, descending deeper into it. I do not know what was below me, and I could not find out as I had no means of seeing anything. All I had was my checklist, a flashlight and a burning desire to come home to you. The prop was still windmilling and because of the electrical failure, my fuel pump had quit. In turning it on, my engine coughed back to life and I continued my approach. Upon landing, my engine quit again. As I rolled to a stop, the entire airport's lighting system shut off and once again I was thrown deep into darkness.
There were plenty of chances tonight for me to crash and God forbid, get very hurt or even die. I have flown over 200 hours so far and most of it during daylight. And all it took was one flight to Lamar at night for everything to go wrong. But it ended well. As it turns out a pilot had landed only minutes before I did and he was even still there to come to my aid and get my plane off an active runway. After charging the battery and purging the fuel lines, my plane was able to restart and stay running with the aid of a manual pump I had to hold into place. The other pilot turned on the airport lights for me again and I took off headed along the Arkansas River to guide my way back to Colorado Springs-- and back to you. As I climbed, the darkness shrouded me again. But this time I was flying from one light to another-- never staying outside of gliding distance of a piece of civilization that could help me. I took out my cell phone and called Denver Center.
"My name is Ryan ------- and I'm piloting N3196F. I am just east of La Junta headed to Colorado Springs at eight thousand five hundred. I have lost all electrical systems including my radios and I need you to call Colorado Springs and get me a clearance to land."
The voice on the other hand took my phone number and said she'd be right back. A few minutes later, a voice from Colorado Springs said to me, "Fly to runway 35L and look for a green light to land." I copied and thanked them for the help. For the next hour, I drifted over darkness pinned with spots of light and the occasional street lights as I winded my way to Pueblo and finally north along the highway to Colorado Springs. I made my approach, with no flaps and really only one chance at landing because the moment I took the control with both hands, I would have to let go of the manual fuel pump and the engine would die. I got to the point I would have to flare, I let go of the fuel pump control and glided down to the pavement-- one squeak from the wheels and I was on solid ground-- safe. As luck would have it, my engine didn't quit and I was able to taxi clear and put the plane back into its parking spot. I turned off the engine and the silence I feared only just before, I now welcomed with a huge sigh of relief.
So if I ever find myself gliding down into darkness-- whether it be in a plane or on my death bed-- I want to from now on be able to look at my life and my love with you and know that I did not waste nor did I squander what I had. Those people I meant to avoid cannot dictate or control me any more-- I will not let them have that power. Whether it be 5 minutes or 50 years with them-- if it means being with you, so be it. I love you with all my heart and soul-- with every bit of my existence and I'm sorry I hurt you. I need you to remind me next time that I made this promise to you because I may forget. And please do not offer to me the chance to not go with you, especially if you know it will hurt you and in effect hurt me in the end. I cannot be with out you and with regard to these people, we can at least be a team and defend one another from their pompousness and over-inflated egos. When I am not with you it is as if half of me is gone-- and it is really hard to fly a plane with one arm and one leg. As Brandi Carlisle says-- its true, I was made for you.
I love flying. It courses my veins like blood. But tonight the very act of flying presented me with great uncertainty. And in those moments of forceful truth, I was made to reckon and understand what was most important to me. I might as well have been thrown into a chair, one hot light above my head and God himself asking me where I was on the night of September 3rd-- because I was not with the woman I loved. He let me go this time but with a warning.
"...so that the Sun shall not burn thee by day, neither the moon by night... The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil..."
I love you.