2017-11-15 / News

The first plane I landed

By EVERETT VANOVER

Sergeant Johnson was an enlisted pilot during World War II. He flew the L-5 Air and Sea Rescue aircraft in Europe until the end of the war. His job was to rescue members of a downed aircraft, American or British. The L-5 could land in a small place.

The other duty he had was to find targets for our bombers and fighters to come and destroy, tanks, trains or other planes on the ground.

Our duties at Langley Field, Va., were to fly over the Atlantic Ocean looking for anything to be rescued. We would then call the Coast Guard and give them the location and we would hang around until they arrived.

Sergeant Johnson was a large, 50-year-old Texan with the nickname of “Hoss”. He would be getting out of the military soon.

I flew with him many times, and we became very close. He would turn over the controls to me many times when we were flying over the ocean.

On the way back to our base, we would shoot landings on the one runway at Fort Eustis, a closed base after the war that was near to our base. We would land, and halfway down the runway he would gun the motor and take off again.

This one day as he was lined up for the landing, he looked at me. I knew something was wrong. I took over the controls and landed the plane. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

The one door was on my side of the plane and I opened it. The cool air came into the plane as we sat there. I turned the plane off. I wanted to call our base, but Johnson said he would be O.K.

He later took off and we flew back to our base.

Nothing was ever said about the landing again. I think he was too embarrassed.

If this story is printed, my kids and friends will find out about the landing for the first time.

(Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.) Newsweek Crossword

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