By Simon Ambit
During a routine gunnery practice exercise, the motor housing bolts of the single engine F-86 Sabre Jet worked free, the large engine shifted, rotations ceased and the RPM fell to zero! Across the base radio came the heart-stopping call, “I’ll be bailing out in 30 seconds.”
I recently read this account given by David M. Nelson, who is a retired lieutenant colonel of the United States Air Force. He goes on to tell how the pilot of the F-86 Sabre Jet had no working instruments other than his radio, so he planned to glide his disabled plane toward the coast as far as possible, eject from the cockpit and hoped to be located and rescued.
However, before he could execute his plan, a fellow pilot on the same mission who was flying an F-15 Fighter fluttered in wing-side and told the pilot of the F-86 that he would power down and glide alongside him. Sending his wingman on a scouting mission, the F-15, along with the disabled F-86, glided along in a small but anxious formation. Shortly after, an abandoned runway was located. The old airstrip was dilapidated, but it would sure work for the situation they were in. Locking onto the location of his wingman with his radar, the pilot of the F-15 was able to guide the pilot of the disabled F-86 Sabre Jet to an elevation of near 1,000 feet and within approximately a mile of the crumbled runway.
Back at the operations desk, a collective breath was held until the call cracked across the radio waves, “He’s down, he’s landed!” Miraculously, despite the loss of engine power, the free gliding F-86 was able to coast in and land safely upon the old airstrip.
When I read this account, I couldn’t help but think about how many times in our lives, even during the routine events that we rehearse, something may go dramatically wrong or change and we suddenly find ourselves powerless against the forces that seem to be trying to pull us down.
We may be quick to think that our only hope is to pull the chord, bail out and hope for the best. I appreciate the fact that no matter how dismal things may seem to be, if we will let those around us know that we are in trouble and then allow them to help. They can fly up alongside us and guide us to a better option. Though the runway may be a bit crumbled and the landing quite rough, there is always the hope that we can touch down safely.
Thank heaven for strong families and good friends!