“Flying with Ice Is Not Nice” *

Frank Bonansinga's scary story in the Winter-04 issue of the Middie LOG awakened a horror memory which I had buried for 50 years. Like Jimmy Doolitle said, "I could never be so lucky again."

While in VR-6, flying R5Ds I was co-pilot on a trip from Prestwick, Scotland bound for Stevensville, Newfoundland. Our weather was forecast to be uneventful, and for all the way out to near the point-of-no-return this was true. We were gradually experiencing a degradation until we were on instruments, but no sweat so far. Then out of nowhere, much like you described, Frank, we hit a wall of freezing rain. The R5D was equipped with ice-breaker "boots" which we turned on, but the ice was forming so fast it bridged over the expanding leads of the boots in less time than it takes to describe this. Now remember from aerology class in pre-flight: "When in freezing rain, climb; don't descend because the warmer layer above you is raining into the freezing temps you are in."

Our R5D had such an enormous load of ice we could not maintain level flight … forget climbing! Our props were equipped with isopropyl alcohol slingers, which we turned on, and ice was slinging off hitting the fuselage, sounding like machine gun fire. Of course we had no choice but to fight the monster to keep flying, and descending from above 9,000' to about 4,500' where (praise the Almighty and our Guardian Angel) the load of ice began to melt and break away. I abandoned my idea of going for a swim in the icy waters of the North" Atlantic. We had broken through the overcast, and the view of all those white caps was not inviting.

Well, Frank's predicament was a bit more hazardous; we knew there was nothing under us but the icy, cold North Atlantic, and he had the worry of a very swift stop against a mountain.

* Flying Midshipmen LOG, summer 2004. © 2004.


“Another SNJ Tale” *

I was at North Whiting almost a year ahead of Owen Dykma [see SNJ article in last Summer's LOG (2001)]. When I got to Saufly I was scheduled for night cross country. Our course was a three-legged one, the first leg to Brewton, AL, then south to the Mobile Llight, then back to Saufly. I checked the yellow sheet on the SNJ assigned to me and found it clean; went out to the flight line, did the usual visual inspections, and climbed into the cockpit. The airspeed indicator was indicating 20 knots instead of zero. I called a flight-line crewman over and showed this to him and he said, "Don't worry about it, the thing will be alright when you get to flight speed, it always comes back to 20 knots. There is where I made a bad mistake, I believed him.

The other pilots were scheduled to take off about 5 minutes apart to keep them from colliding with each other. I took off at my turn, leveled off and set the manifold pressure for 130 kt. I wondered why the SNJ wanted to cruise at a faster speed for the normally set manifold pressure, but I foolishly reasoned that I had a hot-rod SNJ that wanted to be faster than normal. The sun was beautifully setting on my left wing and I was enjoying the scene but slowly about 15 feet above me an SNJ passed right over my canopy. Praise to my guardian angel that my buddy who took off behind me did not chew my tail off with his prop! Still, I did not get it through my thick dumb skull that the airspeed indicator was not right. I went merrily on my way, and arrived at Saufly for landing. When I pulled the throttle back to hear the landing gear horn, the SNJ went into a power off stall! That got my attention! With chills up and down my spine, I did the landing with about 20 knots more indicated than I normally would. I was the last to land that night. The Duty Officer was considering calling out a search for me. I wrote a long note on the yellow sheet. I also noted that something had been erased on the sheet, that I did not see when I checked it before. I showed this to the Operations Officer and raised hell. If I could have found that flight-line crewman I would have raised a knot on his head with a monkey wrench. 

* Flying Midshipmen LOG winter 2002; © 2002.

Pensacola Preflight Class 13-48