I asked Fred to hold the altitude while I worked things out via the emergency checklist. When he told me he couldn’t hold altitude, I quickly went over our options.
I told Fred, “We are going to have to take a field.”
Fred replied, “Which one?”
My angry reply was very curt. I quickly told him “How about right in front of us, and don’t hit the frigging wires!”
Numerous thoughts raced through my mind. One of those thoughts was a cliché told to me years earlier by “Joe,” a designated examiner and former instructor of mine. He said, “If you are flying a twin and you lose an engine, the other one will take you directly to the scene of the crash.”
Fred made a slight turn to the west in our descent. I was not paying too much attention, nor did I ask him why, because I was reading the emergency checklist and still trying to get the engine started.
But my mind was going over things that were not on the checklist. I was wondering what the NTSB and FAA accident reports were going to state. I was also trying to visualize the final resting place and condition of the airplane. Would the wheels be resting on the ground or pointing up into the wild blue? Would there be injuries? Would there be a fire because of all the fuel we had on board? I also knew I was going to have to help Fred out.
I looked up and realized that Fred was setting us up on a straight-in final for Runway 34 at Willows-Glenn County Airport (KWLW).
The site picture gave me the impression that there was a 50/50 chance we were going to make it.
Just before we crossed the concrete, I looked down and noticed that neither one of us had lowered the landing gear, which also reminded me that neither one of us had used a pre-landing checklist.
I yelled, “The gear’s not down!”
His reply, “Well, put it down!”
I lowered the gear and waited for the green light to come on before we touched down, but it didn’t happen.
Within seconds after touchdown, the green light came on, as the airplane was quickly on a diagonal heading for the left edge of the runway.
Without a word to Fred, I took the controls and did all I could to keep the airplane from going off the left side of the runway. The airplane stayed on the pavement, and I slowly taxied to a parking spot and shut down the airplane.
It was our good fortune that a mechanic, who just happened to be doing an annual, agreed to look at our airplane. The mechanic asked that one of us get into the airplane and attempt to start the errant engine. Fred told me to do it. I complied, wondering why my MEI was refusing to get in and attempt a start.
After the engine turned over a few times, refusing to start, the mechanic told us to go get a cup of coffee while he tried to figure out what was wrong with the engine. Fred and I grabbed some coffee at the airport cafe and waited for the mechanic to return. Fred spent most of his time staring out the window, not saying much, and would not look at me.
Approximately an hour later, the mechanic came in and said the airplane was good to go. Fred paid him, and we walked to the airplane. Wanting no problems, I did the run-up twice, using the full checklist. Fred still did not say much, and showed no interest in flying the airplane back or giving any further flight instruction.