Bxxxxxx Adventure

Final Let-down

Rxx, Mxxx, and myself were returning from Oshkosh 2001 in Rxx's Xxxxx. After a delayed start due to ground fog, the return trip to WA was going about as good as could be. Light to non-existent head winds, unusual for a west bound heading, no problems with thunderstorms, even though they were present either side of our route, and just general good progress.

After an uneventful landing at MT we were somewhat crestfallen to observe a passel of airplanes parked on the ramp in front of Mustang Mickies. That's the great, self-service, on airport bunkhouse that we had over-nighted at on the trip out. Not only was the bunkhouse full, but overflow parties were departing in the courtesy cars to find other lodging.\line So we decided, what the heck, let's fuel it up and do the last leg to PWT, even though we all really felt like quitting after 7+ hours in the air. A check of weather didn't show anything that a big, hairy-chested, IFR v-tail couldn't handle, so we filed instruments to XXX.

Rxx was in the left seat, Mxxx in back, and I was First Officer in the right seat. We got into pretty good precip right on the departure climb to 10,000 ft. Our first clue that something was amiss was lots of rain dripping in on my head during climb out. Looking up at the door, one could see a fair sized gap at the top of the door, indicating that I had not gotten it closed properly. Now the prudent pilot would have called departure, told them of his problem, and returned to xxxxx. Not us. Since we were level at 10,000ft, the leaking had stopped in level flight, and the door seemed to be holding, we decided to press on.\line

Once we got pass xxxxx, the worst of the weather was behind us, and we were soon sailing over Stampede Pass in the Cascade Range on top at 10,000 ft with the last vestiges of light fading from the western sky. xxxx approach called and asked us to leave 10,000 for 8,000, but after some talk, they said we could stay on top at 10,000 longer if we wanted. Now who would trade gliding along in glass smooth air on top for a descent into a black cauldron of clouds over a major mountain range.

Well, the answer is us. As soon as we entered the clouds it got very dark and moderately turbulent. In a moment we hit one of those gut dropping downdrafts and BANG!!!, all hell broke loose. "Son of a gun!", I exclaimed. The cabin door had popped open. Now I have had cabin doors come open a time or two, and it was never too big of a deal. Lots of noise and wind, and some times I have even been able to get them closed again in flight. Not this sucker. It sounded like an explosion when it popped. The aft edge of the door sucked out about a foot. The enroute chart I had in my hand to put the last VOR on the NAV was ripped out of my hand and into the great void. The wind was so loud that we lost the ability to talk to each other on the intercom. It made my eyes water and I felt like my eyeglasses were going to join the enroute chart if I got my head any farther than about 6" away from the instrument panel.\line If I pulled with all my might, I could narrow the aft opening to about 6", but there was no way I was going to get that sucker closed in flight. It was mighty cold with OATs hovering around 0\'ba C and 100+ knots of airspeed.

Rxx, thinking he could do me a favor by turning on the cabin heat, was amazed to discover that I had managed to fully deploy it while still clutching the door with both hands. (All I can say is that an old freight pilot from Wisconsin can run a heater.) We informed approach of our predicament and our desire to get down ASAP, and they immediately responded with lower as the terrain permitted. But they were vectoring us way south of Seatac so we would stay out of their hair. Finally between Sxxx and Txxxx we broke out of the clouds. We decided that Txxx was a good target since I was rapidly turning into an ice cube and would be frozen in place by the time we got to xxxxx. Rxx cancelled IFR and entered the pattern for a landing on runway 17. We called the CTAF, since the tower guys had all gone home. Now I know that when it rains it pours, and that Murphy was an optimist, but wouldn't you know we were looking at as nasty of a crosswind as I've seen in all my Washington flying. Rxx was trying to bulldog that maverick down, and I was wanting to grab some controls and join in the fun, but thought I could better serve by trying to keep the door at half-mast. Finally we flopped onto the runway, breathed a collective sigh of relief, and secured that door!

Now a prudent thing to do would have been to call the wives and tell them that we had changed our arrival airport, but since we hadn't done anything prudent on the entire leg, we prepared to launch for the 10 minute flight to Bxxx. We finally found the runway at xxx, taxied to the gas pumps, and saw the wives dutifully waiting.

We all three were in agreement that it was a good thing that none of them were aboard, or we probably would never get them in an airplane again.

Respectifully submitted, xxxx

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Last Modified on April 12,1998
All images and text copyright 1998, Barbara @ Babes & Airplanes