Wake turbulence and losing a plane engine over Atlantic Ocean

Published 11:15 pm Friday, July 10, 2020

Many years ago, I was in Charleston, coming back from a trip, and I noticed a Cessna packed with a lot of electronic gear.

I struck up a conversation with the pilots and found they were FAA inspectors studying wake turbulence that flows off of a plane’s wings and persists for a few minutes after the plane passes.
It is especially dangerous for small planes following large planes, especially while landing.
I remember encountering it one time, I was with an instructor when I first started flying.
We’re following a National Guard C-119 and when we flew into the wake, it felt like someone hit the side of the plane and tipped us up a bit. Sometimes, it can completely invert the small plane. The heavier the plane, the more dangerous it is.

Anyway, Maybelle and I offered them a ride down to their hotel. Later, we joined them for dinner at the Sterling restaurant.

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They told us about flying the new Boeing 747 for the FAA on some of the initial flights. The plane was introduced in commercial use in 1970, so the encounter with these guys was in the late 1970s. They were impressed with it, they flew out of Seattle, Washingiton, up across Alaska, back across Canada to North Dakota and back to Seattle, all with no stops.

Well, Boeing has decided to stop making them after the outstanding orders were completed, which will be in about two years.

I remember these guys giving me a tie clasp with a model of the moon lander dangling from it. They told me that the astronauts took one to the moon and back. Then they took it and mixed with few hundred others. So, I may have one that went to the moon.

I remember Howard Mayes Jr. telling me about an exploratory trip flying a United 747 he made with passengers from Philadelphia to Los Angles.

He reported back to the CEO that it was too long a trip for passengers to endure, but times change. Howard and his father, a WWI fighter pilot, managed the Lawrence County Airport in the early 1930s for nearly 10 years.
Another experience with the 747: Maybelle and I were flying out Heathrow airport in London and we were out over the Atlantic Ocean when the plane shuddered.

After a little while, the captain told us we had lost an engine.

Since we were less than half way to the US, they turned back.

The captain again came on the intercom, this time to tell us not to be concerned about a stream of fluid leaving the tip of the wings. He had to dump fuel so the plane would be light enough to land. We made it back to Heathrow with no problem. As we landed there were a whole bevy of fire trucks and emergency vehicles lining the runway.
British Airways had hotel rooms waiting for 300-plus passengers. They even let us call home and took care of all the expenses.


Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at eelnod22@gmail.com