Back before our plane got upgraded with new engines we would have to do what is called a flare to land. Basically when we did a flare as we got close to the ground we would have to cut back the power to the engines and sort of coast the plane to the ground. Kind of a scary manuever when you consider we were flying on a big four engine, overweight plane.
One day after a mission we were coming back to land in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. We had a brand new co-pilot and she was getting one of her first landings on this very day.
Now let me say up front I have nothing against female pilots, I have flown with some really good ones.
This unfortunately was not one of those times.
I was sitting back in the plane where I could look out the window we have there. It was a pretty clear day, and everything was going good. We were on the path and coming in just like we should. Then we flare. Usually when we flared there was a delay before we contacted the ground.
The engines cut back power.
And I waited.
I sat up, looked out the window.
I tightened my five-point harness a little bit.
Then we hit the ground. Hard. Really hard.
Now in most instances this would not have been too bad, because most people have the sense to build things far away from an active runway. This was not the case with the Saudi's when they built their runway, and support facilities. There were lines of buildings right off the runway. On both sides.
When we hit the ground we were lined up right in the middle of the runway just like we were supposed to be.
I'm not sure what happened when we came off the ground again, but for some reason the plane turned on it's axis a little bit, and instead of all the buildings going by like on a normal landing I look out the window and see...
This is not normal. Things are definitely not right at this time. Because if I am looking down the runway, that means the nose of the plane is pointed at some of those buildings that were close to the runway.
Now this wasn't quite the first time I thought I might die, but it was the first time that it seemed like a serious possibility. And the first thought through my mind? Man I hope my underwear are still clean when they find the bodies.
Then over the interphone I hear the greatest expression I have ever heard. The pilot comes over and says "My plane, My plane" and the engines start to come back up to power.
Then we hit the ground the second time.
And we bounce again, but the engines are up to power now, and the pilot is able to get us to where we are accelerating. I have stopped looking out the window, and I'm not sure if we are accelerating toward the sky or the buildings, but we are moving in some direction now.
As I peel my eyes open, sense we haven't exploded yet I decide I'll peek out the window. I see sky and and the tops of buildings just the way it should be. We come back around and land safely this time with a perfectly executed flare. Well comparatively speaking perfect. We didn't bounce, we didn't twist in flight. We landed parked shut it down, and got the heck off the plane.
Pretty sure I saw a couple guys kiss the ground after that one.