So, a couple of people have asked if that landing I described earlier was actually my first ever landing. I mean, that couldn’t have been my first EVER landing, not after flying for 13 years. Right? Well, it was my first ‘legal’ landing. You see, it it explicitly verboten for navigators to land the aircraft. I have had many a pilot allow me to ‘fly’ but only up and away where I couldn’t hurt anything except my pride, never near the ground. Even at Test Pilot School, the pilot would take the aircraft from me at around 300 feet on the approach. Except for one time….
I was flying at the Italian Test Center at Pratica di Mare Air Base (ICAO: LIRE) about 20 minutes south of Rome. We were flying an Aermacchi MB-339. My pilot (let’s call him Mario*) let me sit in the front seat for some reason, but who was I to argue? When I told him that I was ready to taxi, he told me to go ahead. So I did and took the airplane to the runway. When I told him that I was ready to takeoff, he told me to go ahead. So I did. I took off (pretty rough) and immediately entered a left closed pattern for a ‘touch and go.’ I told him that I was ready for a landing and he said to go ahead. Now there was no way that he’d actually let me land the plane, that’s pretty damn illegal in any country, so I continued under the assumption that he’d take the plane from me. He didn’t. I landed (very rough) about 15 knots too fast after floating for a good 1000 feet down the runway. My only saving grace was that there was no wind. I performed a touch and go (barely within safety margin) and then went into another left closed pattern. I did 3 touch and goes before Mario gave me my first critique.
Mario : “I can tell you fly big airplanes. You handle it like it’s a heavy.”
Me: “Well that was my first ever landing.”
Mario : “You mean your first lading in a fighter airplane?”
Me: “No, that’s my first landing ever.”
Mario : “But you’re a pilot in the US Air Force.”
Me: “No dude, I’m a Navigator.”
Mario : “I have the aircraft.”
[another uncomfortable pause]
Mario : “Please don’t tell anyone I let you land.”
*Names have been changed to protect the guilty