It was a dark and stormy night.Â The small 19 passenger weed-whacker began it’s take-off roll.Â The young Captain was trying to focus his attention on the torque gauges but the weather radar was showing a level 5 cell right off the end of the runway.Â On the radar it looked beet red.
As the young pilot danced on the rudder pedals to counteract for a right cross wind he rotated for liftoff.Â The First Officer called, “positive rate” over the intercom’s voice activated microphone.
The deep set eyes of the captain fixated on the airspeed dropping rapidly. He was just about to call for the landing gear to be raised but stopped himself.
In a mechanical and demanding voice the Jipwiz (GPWS) called, “Don’t Sink, Don’t Sink”. It was immediately followed by a more alarmed robotic voice. “Wind-shear, Wind-shear, Wind-shear.
The young pilots hands were white knuckled on the control yoke and he wanted to keep it that way.
He called, “METO POWER!”
The First officer knuckled the power levers higher. When the Stall warning horn came on a calming fatherly voice replied, “I’m going to 5 second transient power sir”.
The young pilots mouth was dry and his reply was barely readable, “Roger”.
It didn’t seem to matter.Â They had only climbed to 75 feet and now they were hanging on the engines while the ground was coming up.Â The runway-end lights went slicing under the nose and the left wing dipped.
They could see the red obstruction lights of the water tower across the highway.
While the stall horn was whistling like a tea pot the Jipwiz called again “Don’t Sink, Don’t Sink.
The radar altimeter was reading 60 feet.
The pilot steered the yoke hard to the right to fight the wing drop.Â It worked the wings leveled but the radar altimeter now read 50 feet.
The older and grizzled First Officer called, “You keep flying son, I’m going to reach over there and override the JATO.”
This older model turbo-prop was so underpowered that it could barely fly if it lost an engine while the landing gear was down.Â So, the engineers made a quick fix by sticking a solid propellant rocket engine in the tail of the plane that would automatically fire if one of the engines lost power while the gear is down.Â In theory it would fire just long enough for the pilot to raise the gear and make the plane more aerodynamic.Â Tonight it was armed for take-off.
Pilots have been sceptical of the “JATO bottle”. JATO stands for Jet assisted takeoff. Many pilots joked that all it ever did was make a smoke trail to the scene of the accident.
Skelter had to undo his shoulder harness to make the reach under Jacobs arm and around the control column to select the JATO override to on.
Meanwhile the plane dipped below the red light of the water tower. Jacob thumbed the radio transmit switch. Tower, “Water-ski 1210 reporting severe wind-shear!”
Just as he finished his head was thrown back against the headrest and the airspeed climbed out of the stall range. The altitude stopped decreasing.
Skelter looked at the obstruction light getting larger and in a voice like he was the father of the bride asking his daughter for a dance he says, “Positive Rate”
Jacob smiled and replied, “Landing Gear up, Number One.”
With the gear up and the glow of the rocket disappearing Jacob eased the plane into climb just steep enough to miss the water tower.
The radio lit up with the rapid fire voice of the control tower canceling takeoff clearances and telling other aircraft in the area about the report. Finally there’s a pause and an very non-standard query, “Water-ski 1210 are you alright?”
By this time the weed-whacker was climbing like a home-sick angel.
Skelter keyed the mike,”Yea, but we’ve been better.”
The clean shaven controller smiled,”Okay Skelter, contact departure on 124.6…stay safe”
“Wilco” was the only reply.