Wow! Reading the front page story about a pilot landing on the Beeline after an engine failure sure brought back memories to me.
Back in January of 1955, I was cross wind ready to turn final to land at Detroit’s then major airport, “Detroit City.” The engine of my $700 Aeronca Chief airplane quit, 800 feet above the ground where there were hundreds of homes, a large police station, a major busy roadway, a cemetery, a very large airplane hangar, a terminal with two airliners parked in front and then my runway. I had one second to make a decision. I turned right, to the east and headed for a golf course.
I clearly remember looking to the left at roof top level of the old “Desota” car factory and ahead at a busy roadway, a 6-foot fence and the golf course fairway. It took a lot of thinking as I glided toward the ground, being careful not to stall the aircraft. Skimming over the car tops, the fence and a neat 3-point landing I was on the ground but rolling pretty fast.
Ahead was large clump of trees; to the right a large bush. I went for the bush but at the last minute I hit my right brake and right rudder and the right wing tipped to the ground as I turned, just rubbing a little paint and came to a dead stop. I jumped out of the aircraft, and ran toward some housing, climbed over the fence, knocked on a house door, called the airport saying I was OK and ran back to the airplane.
There were fire engines, police cars, an ambulance and the manager of the airport who ran up and gave me a big hug.
How did I get my aircraft back to the airport? Well, a retired police inspector worked with me and he said, “Let me handle it.”
The next day, we put the tail of the aircraft on a pickup truck bed, tied it down and eight police cars led me to the airport by clearing a roadway and blocking any traffic.
What was the cause? Light aircraft have a carburetor heater to keep ice from forming, cutting fuel supply. Inspection showed that when I applied the carburetor heat the cable to open the heat source had broken and my carburetor iced up.
That was fixed and future flights were made for a long time.