Committed Part 2

I wasn’t terribly surprised. Our alternate airport at Pevek was north west of Anadyr and would be getting the bad weather sooner that Anadyr.

“What do you want to do man? What do you think?”

“We don’t have the option of turning around. I think we should go faster so we get there before it gets any worse. No sense flying slow and saving fuel now.”

Marcio agreed. The longer it took us to get there the worse the conditions would be when we arrived. He bumped the power up to high cruise while the reports from Anadyr kept coming in.

Two hundred fifty feet and two miles visibility.

Two hundred feet and one mile visibility.

Two hundred feet and one half mile.

There it was, our legal minimums to shoot the approach and land at Anadyr and we were still forty five minutes out. It would only get worse.

Marcio and I wanted to be left alone with our thoughts while we prepared for what was coming. John had different ideas. With the utmost confidence in his pilots (misplaced) he went about filming a TV show. He couldn’t do real interviews with us but he did make us talk about the situation we were in. We gave him a few minutes of dialog but our hearts weren’t in it. I hoped we looked calm and cool on camera while we casually talked about our possible impending doom.

I thought about what we might do differently if the cloud base was really low when we arrived. What if it was zero, zero? A totally blind landing? How would we handle that? The only thing I could think of was that maybe we should burn our fuel down to a minimum state before we landed. That way if we crashed in Zero visibility conditions there would be less fuel for the fire. I hated the thought of being burned alive. Or dead for that matter.

Thirty minutes out, one hundred ninety feet and one quarter mile visibility. Below minimums.

We’d been flying over some very interesting terrain for the last hour but I had a hard time caring. Thick forests had given way a craggy mountain range and what looked like a dormant volcano. The first signs of the low cloud layer appeared and covered everything in its path leaving only a few peaks sticking up in the fading light.

In the descent now. One hundred fifty feet one quarter mile, mist.

“We’ll have fuel for three, possibly four approaches when we get there.”

“If we’re in a good stabilized approach I’ll continue to the runway no matter if we can see it or not. It will only get worse if we go around and try it again.

I agree with my Captain’s plan and study the approach plate on my iPad.

“Anadyr tower Phenom seven bravo foxtrot, can you please request runway lights full bright. Lights full bright at the airport please.”

“Aaaah, lights are inoperative.”

Marcio and I looked at each other.

“Did he just say no lights?”

“No lights. Doesn’t help much does it?”

“No . . . That’s not good. We better make this first one count.”

Wonderful, we were about to attempt a night landing in almost zero visibility conditions and the runway lights were out. Things just keep getting better and better.

“Seven bravo foxtrot, wind three zero zero, six meters per second.”

I didn’t know how to convert that to miles per hour but it sounded windy.

As we got close to the airport a lone mountain top was poking up through the overcast. The fast moving clouds were flowing around the mountain, coming back together in a jumble of swirls and rents. I catch a glimpse of inky blackness beneath. Then it’s behind us as we turn in and begin the approach. All light leaves us as soon as we enter the clouds. The instrument lights give off a warm glow as Marcio adjusts the autopilot while I keep track of our progress on my iPad. I read about an Air Force cargo plane that was forced to do a true zero zero landing back in the nineteen fifties. The crew never saw the runway and landed using only the primitive navigation instruments of the time and flared using only the altimeter. I was thoroughly grateful for a good autopilot and the GPS system as we rode the Phenom to whatever awaited us at the end of our approach.

“When we hit five hundred feet I want you to call down our altitude.”


Everything is all set now. The landing gear is down and locked, flaps are set, all instruments in the green. There’s no point asking for a condition update, the die is cast. John hasn’t said anything for a while. I briefly wonder what he’s thinking?

“Five hundred.”

“Four hundred.” Marcio gently puts his hands on the yoke but leaves the autopilot engaged.

“Three hundred . . . Two hundred.” Our legal minimums. Nothing outside. We should go to full power and execute a missed approach . . . We don’t.

“One fifty.” Nothing . . .Fuzzy white runway lights suddenly flash on in the mist! Someone’s been working overtime! More lights appear as we drop another few feet.

“I see the runway.” I say as I transition to the instruments in case Marcio can’t see them when he looks up to land.

“Okay, yep, got it.”

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