Look Fear In the Face


I was flying solo in a small Cessna 172 out of the DeLand airport and headed to Camp Blanding.

Our ROTC cadets were at Camp Blanding on a training exercise. My job was to get the plane there, so it could be used in the training.

I looked fear in the face several times on that flight.

The first was navigating through airspace protected for Navy jets practicing bombing runs. Another was landing on a short, grassy airfield at Camp Blanding.

My whole body was on alert. My heart was pounding. As I threaded the needle through the Navy bombing range, I was sweating big time. Made it. Whew!

Camp Blanding came into view. But, I noticed there was a huge water tower at the other end of the runway. In my mind, I thought I would have only one chance to land safely, without having to climb back out and swerve to avoid the water tower.

With knees knocking, I maneuvered to approach the runway. I reduced airspeed and altitude, slipping a bit against a sidewind. The field looked shorter, the water tower bigger.

Slower. Lower. Lined up. Airspeed correct. Flare. Touch down. Roll to a stop. Done. Whew!


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