This is a true story of an aviation incident
It carries a warning about a rare flight anomaly
This page has two different stories about my experiences flying this particular Luscombe 8A|
In 1967, I was doing a little bit of aerobatic flying. (showing off my skills) (perhaps the lack thereof)
An acquaintance of mine was a Korean war veteran. He and his wife wanted to see me fly and do some loops.
I was only too happy to get an audience. Yeah, yeah, I know, show off.
I had access to a semi-aerobatic aircraft. It was a Luscombe 8A equipped with a 65 HP corn popper under the hood.
This particular "bird" was very tricky to handle.
We had an old man out there we called "Old timer". Old timer was a retired college professor.
He made the statement that in 1919 he learned how to fly.
He said if you could fly this particular Luscombe, you could fly the Midget racing planes.
We used to call these things, "very hairy". I had been around some of the midget racing planes in my high school years.
I was very leery about climbing into something that might finish me off!
This particular bird required "good table manners." On the day of the "show", I went through the
I checked the gas, oil, and made sure everything was hanging together like it was supposed to be.
Old timer came up as I held the brakes, "cracked the throttle" a little, and flipped both mags (magnetos) on.
I shouted, "brakes & contact". With that said, he pulled the prop through. This old bird coughed into life.
When my path was clear, I taxied to the end of the strip. I checked for incoming traffic.
Facing into the wind, I shoved the throttle to the wall. I released the brakes.
In a few moments, I was rising free as a bird from mother earth.
When I got where I wanted, with scrutiny, I checked out the area of sky around me.
I put the nose down at a gentle angle. I was keeping an eye on the airspeed and an eye on the outside world.
When the two appeared
compatible, I applied the proper back pressure on the stick. This gave the desired results.
I was confident. I watched as the ground vanished beneath my nose.
The sky kept rolling down from the top of the windshield.
the ground came rolling down from the top of the windshield. It was picture perfect. I did another and messed up.
It dropped out slightly as I was going through the top of the loop. It unnerved me!
I was no longer the smooth and confidant flyer I thought I was. I flew it back.
On the deck, the old timer (circa 1919 beginnings), said we couldn't see you over there. You need to go back up.
Do it over here, pointing to another area of sky in better view of everybody. I tried to pass the buck.
I was a bit rattled from my mistake. I told him I couldn't since I didn't have anyone to prop the engine.
He responded quickly, "I'll prop it". I thought, shut up old man. To save face, I climbed in, buckled up and he obliged.
Soon, the world I knew, was 2000 feet below me. It was "show time".
I did a picture perfect loop. I looked over to my left. I could see the crowd watching. My ego rose to the occasion.
I remember thinking, "Now the Old dad will show you how it's done". Famous last words!
I am still not sure what I did wrong, (although I think in the heat of the moment, I took it up too slow).
It went straight up, and it was stuck there. You could count the strokes of the prop going past the windshield.
The engine was laboring hard. The aircraft was stationary. I was in trouble.
Simultaneously, I was shoving my feet firm into the floor as I grabbed both door handles. Confidence had just been blown!
I was trying to brace against what I thought I knew was coming.
The Luscombe went down, tail first. When the mass in the front demanded recognition, the tail exchanged places.
The nose was facing earthbound verically and , I mean pronto!
Unknown to me, several factors were at play. I had just kinked the fuselage in this hairy (scary), unplanned maneuver for one.
My real troubles were just beginning to show. It was as if the plane had sighed. It slowed down. It slowed down eerily!
It was in a scary, never before seen situation by me anywhere, or for that matter, heard anyplace as well.
As I was descending, straight down, there was a distinct impression made on me.
That was, if my arm were able to hang out the side of the plane, there wouldn't be any air going past. This defied rationale!
I shoved the rudder pedals back and forth. There was no feel of any pressure, not even a whimper of air on the rudder.
There wasn't even so much as a twitch in this bird. I rocked the stick from side to side. No response.
I shoved the stick all the way forward. The lack of response was as if it were parked in a closed hangar. I kept it up.
To try and give you an idea about this. When you were a
kid going down a highway in the family car.
Sometimes, as kids would do, you
let your hand weave around on the outside in the air.
The resistance from the wind blowing by would shove your hand up and down as to the angle of your hand into the wind.
As the car slowed down, your hand would mush around on the air slowly.
Now to press forward with this first person account.
I watched as the corn field was spreading out in my windshield. It was marking time.
It was marking the end of my life in a few moments. I thought, " I don't know what I've done, but I've sure done, done it".
I repeated everything above. It was futile.
Looking out the windshield with primary vision, I was watching my demise rising up to meet me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I was observing the fact that I had lost more than half of my altitude.
I had slowly drifted below 1000 feet. Yet I was still going down.
There was again the distinct impression in my mind, that if I could have placed my arm outside the aircraft,
I would have felt no air going past.
On the ground, our circa, 1919 trained pilot, "Old timer", was making a serious plea. He took his hat off his head.
He turned it over and spoke in his familiar lisp. "Come on boys. Put some money in the hat.
We need to buy some flowers for that boy's funeral.
I learned to fly in 1919. I've seen some guys get into that over the years. They all died.
I'm serious, put some money in the hat for flowers for that boy's funeral. He's going to be dead in a few moments."
Truly, . . . . . I'm grateful . . . . . . that I couldn't hear his comments.
Besides, I was caught up in the moment.
I recall saying in my thoughts, "Lord, It looks like I'm coming home" Suddenly, there was a strange peace that came over me.
It was amazing!
I started banging the stick in short jerky strokes at the far end of the travel (nose down position).
I don't know why I was doing it. There was no hope of recovery that I could see.
Maybe there was outside help that I couldn't see. I kept up this bumping the stick on the far end of the travel.
Then, all at once, there was a light buffeting, or vibration that came over the plane. Bingo!
I was in a freaky stall of the likes that I had never seen, much less heard about.
I continued holding the stick forward as it started sliding down through the air faster. I had to have speed to recover.
I held off and then slowly eased the stick back to neutral. I wasn't ready to recover yet.
This was even though the ground was looming much closer.
The concern of a secondary stall loomed high in my consciousness.
When I was confident that it would recover, I gently slid the stick back. My cheeks were shoved down on my neck.
I flattened out. Swiftly, I picked it up and banked to the left. I shot over the fence.
I felt my knees knocking hard. The prop was whistling as the barbed wire fence raced beneath my wings.
Back on the deck, my buddies told me about "Old timer's" prediction as to my pending outcome. Doom that was denied!
It was some years later that I read a report in Flying magazine. Four guys climbed into a beat up old Cessna 170 tail dragger.
The right door was gone. The two guys in the back were going to go skydiving.
Once the pre - determined altitude was achieved, the fellow flying it, slowed it way down.
This made it easier for the guys in the back to climb out. They swung out, hanging on to the wing strut.
The first guy climbed out, let go, and was swiftly gone behind them. His buddy repeated the same deal.
This stuff by the way, is not for me! It's too scary!
After the second guy had cleared the aircraft, suddenly, as though the plane had sighed, (sound familiar) it nosed over.
It plunged in an eerie straight down attitude. The passenger did have a Private pilot's license.
The passenger noticed that the pilot was rocking the rudder pedals back and forth (as I did). There wasn't even a twitch.
He rolled the wheel back and forth as he shoved it in and out. There was no response.
This passenger noticed an eerie quietness about the air outside the cabin. He stuck his arm out in to the slip stream.
Remember, the door was gone. I didn't have that luxury. Much less, I didn't have the time to be messing around.
He stated, there was no air going by as they descended vertically.
The passenger said he would have left the aircraft if he had been wearing a parachute. The pilot was in violation of the law.
The passenger was supposed to be wearing a chute when jumpers went out (I guess they don't care about the guy flying it).
If the chute of one of the jumpers had snagged the tail, it would have blanked out the stabilizer.
This would have rendered recovery of the aircraft impossible. The face of the pilot was white without color.
(Mine was probably like that as well). He started banging in short strokes at the end of the travel of the yoke.
(nose down position). Soon and suddenly, there came a light buffeting through the airplane. It started sliding down.
It was going faster until enough speed could be acquired to recover.
This passenger stated that it could, in his belief, occur in the most docile of aircraft.
I agree with his assessment that most pilots flying then and now, do not know how to get out of this freak condition.
It is like a trip in the twilight zone.
This near fatal incident in the Luscombe was too close to call!
I had a friend in the shop who was quite concerned about my having been inducted into the US Army.
I was soon to report for active duty at the United States Armor Training Center known as Fort Knox, Kentucky.
He was directly responsible for getting me to hear the word. And I got a new life in Christ at that point.
These things are not really happenstance that occur in our lives!
It was some years after this incident that he showed up at church where I was attending.
"Smitty" stunned me with his statement that he had prayed for me every day.
He was a US Army vet of World War II. He knew what it was like.
In a training incident at Fort Knox, I got blasted into the air and spun around at night, by a dynamite charge.
I was just not sure what had actually happened.
As I was revising this page just now, I got a chill. During that phase of the training, a series of bright flood lights were turned on.
This was for the purpose of simulating enemy flares. Then in just a moment after that, dynamite charges were set off.
Reason: To give the impression of heavy weapons being dropped onto our position.
Obviously, I wasn't thinking right at that moment. I just raised my head up beside one these explosive packed enclosures.
What makes this so revealing is the fact that after the charges were detonated, three sergeants at one end of the course would
open fire with their machine guns using live ammo and tracers at a height of 30 inches.
Had they opened quickly as they normally would have, they would have shot me full of holes as I was tumbling through the air.
And there may be some out there reading this who think that prayer doesn't matter.
I seriously beg to differ with you! Allow me to offer you an invitation.
If you would like to come out and find meaning in your life as you have probably never known before,
I encourage you to try this.
In the east Dayton, Kettering and Beavercreek, OH areas, there is a medium size church.
If you will allow it, there is a message that will reach into your inner soul. The people are friendly and caring.
It can be a life changing event that each and every one of us needs. I truly hope that as many as will who read this,
will give it not only food for thought, but consideration for the greater need that lies in each and every one of us.
For more information about this invitation, please Click here
The plane is in England under new ownership over there. Here is how she looks today.
It was illegal to transfer the N number from one plane to another aircraft. I don't know how they did this legitimately.
It is now on a rotary wing aircraft. Go to Google and "punch" in N45593 See what gives.
On another note: I discovered a nasty attribute about these "birds".
Here is more neat stuff about this Luscombe 8A
The interior of the "bird" as it was when I used to fly it had been done in black and white naugahyde in 1966.
A guy named Charlie owned it then. This included the head rest you see inside in the photo at the top of the page,
the door panels, carpeting, and white Naugahyde "boots" around the stick and floor protrusions.
He got it done for $66 An amazing deal even back then. Notice the black circle on the head rest near the top of the cabin.
That was your gas gauge. You had to turn around to see what you had left.
It was attached to the gas tank behind the nice interior.
This plane was nerve wracking to me until I got the hang of it. The rudder seemed to be very sensitive to the touch.
When I finally got used to the quirks, it became a "sports car" in the air. I loved it !
A fellow I know who lives in Papua, New Guinea, told me he had flown one once.
He commented on the low ceiling in the cabin of this plane. I told him about an incident I had near Miami University (Ohio).
There is a humorous aspect to this. It was in the Autumn of the year. Really nice weather prevailed.
The scenic countryside was a feast for the eyes to boot. It all made for what would otherwise have been a pleasant trip.
There is an area just east of Oxford, OH (where Miami University is located) that is prone to having turbulent air currents.
I honestly don't know why.
Map of Oxford area (if interested)I honestly don't know why.
We were flying from near Lebanon, OH to Miami University Airport ( It was a distance of only 35 miles).
When we came into ths area just east of Oxford, we hit severe turbulence.
We were being slapped up and down in our seats. Our heads were being banged into the ceiling rapidly.
It reminded me afterwards of a toy I had seen little girls playing with when I was a kid.
It was a wooden paddle with a rubber string attached to it. On the other end of the rubber string was a rubber ball.
The little girls would slap the ball silly up and down.
The Luscombe 8A is semi aerobatic rated (or was in it's day).
My flight instructor decided to tag along for the ride.
He was wearing a big red padded hunters hat. It was thick and bright red. His head was protected to some degree.
My bare head had blood coming out. I was in agony. My flight instructor was yelling at me to slow the plane down.
I had higher priorities. I had my hands on top of my head trying to minimize the ongoing damage.
It was then that my flight instructor grabbed the throttle and pulled it back.
We were mushing around in the air like a boat in big waves. Once the Luscombe settled down, I grabbed the stick and rudder
pedals to continue the flight.
Back at our point of origination, there were quite a number of Luscombe 8A's on the field.
I went on a fact finding mission of my own at that point. I opened the left door on each of these Luscombe 8A's.
As I looked into the ceiling, the skylight looked like it was held in place with 10-24 screws.
The screws were pushed down from the top through the aircraft skin, through the plexiglass skylight.
It was retained by a nut. All but one of these Luscombe 8A's had dried blood and hair growing from these screws.
The one Luscombe 8A that was missing the hair and dried blood had it's screws removed and turned upside down.
The round head was in the cabin ceiling. The shaft of these many screws was sticking up outside the plane.
No, It didn't look good. But it did not have hair and dried blood suspended from the cockpit ceiling.
Obviously, one guy had indeed had enough of that torment. The Luscombe 8A did not have a side window behind the door.
It had a 65 hp Continental engine as did the Piper J-3 cub. With wheel fairings, the 8A would cruise about 105 mph.
A later version had an all metal wing. If I recall correctly, it added about 20 lbs to the aircraft weight.
The Piper J-3 with the same engine would cruise about 75 mph.
Drag and weight is greatly reduced in the Luscombe's cleaner design. The 8E had the rear side windows and a hat shelf where
the gas tank had been. Fuel tanks were placed in the wings on the 8E. It had an 85 hp engine. The 8F had flaps.
These aircraft were put back into production a few years ago with a 150 hp engine.
That would be tantamount to a pocket rocket from what I knew. I also found out that the glide was now somewhat nose heavy.
If they had placed a battery far enough behind the seats at the proper point, the proper glide would have been restored.
This would have counter balanced the heavier engine and starter.
The economy once again killed production of these aircraft.
CURRENT OWNERS COMMENTS
PS Notice the flat tires in the factory photo below! The wing is all aluminum stressed skin.
I hope you enjoyed reading these accounts from my youth! Your webmaster; Fred L. Dooley,
The Carillon park tower standing in the splendor of autumn!
Photo by your Webmaster Fred L. Dooley, Jr.