The Coast Guard needed to send an HU-25 Falcon Jet on a last minute deployment to San Diego. The full story is featured in my new book, ‘Gear Up, Shut Up!’
As we pushed forward on the mission, we were at a point that we realized fuel was a major concern. To get the job done it required us to push forward or we could hit the easy button and call it quits and fuel up.
My copilot said at our critical decision point, “Dave, we got it.” I looked at the numbers on fuel burn, winds, as we ran some scenarios of wind variables that would not favor us and it was a good call to press forward.
Inevitably, the winds ceased to favor us and we ended up on the low side of our fuel reserve estimates. We had planned for this, so we were OK but not great. As we rounded from base to final, I called for the flaps and then landing gear down—landing checks. Then I hear the words, “Ahh Dave. We have a problem. The left main landing gear is not out.”
After entering a delta pattern, myself and the other pilot frantically worked through a system two gear extension burning up valuable gas. The gear came out, and we swooped down and landed. As we rolled out on the runway I was contemplating just how long those Honeywell engines could run on faith.
I looked back in the cabin and noticed the three enlisted flyers were breathing heavy and sweating. I asked, “What did you guys do back there?” Short-winded a response came, “We knew that fuel was a big issue so if the system 2 gear extension did not work, we stacked and moved everything to get to the gear releases for the unlock and free fall.”
If one of the guys in the back did not take the initiative to become a leader and get the cargo stacked, we would have ran out of gas if that system two gear extension had not worked.
Great leaders emerge when they see a situation and act on it in the best interest of the team, not when they sit and watch from the sideline worried about who has what title or what the person in charge will say.
Photo Credit: Us at the Grand Canyon after the flight, my treat. My nerves are shot and the crew is proud and happy; as they should be