The poem of the month is “Ground Loop,” by William Sloan. Sloan was a civilian instructor employed by the Ryan School of Aeronautics at Randolph Field, San Antonio, Texas. This poem was first printed in Randolph Field: A History and Guide (1942). A ground loop occurs when the pilot makes a faulty landing and the aircraft spins around, often violently, before coming to a stop. Although Sloan never identifies the aircraft, it may have been the Stearman biplane trainer. But any aircraft with two main gear and a tailwheel was /is susceptible to doing a ground loop.
When a pilot’s been a-flying for a couple years or so,
And can kick a plane around, and put on quite a show,
It’s a thing he takes no pride in, and unless I have been scooped,
If he’s ever done much flyin’, he’s at different times ground looped.
When the kaydets get together for a stage at Randolph Field,
And you’re due to draw a ship with a wobbly tail wheel,
You come in for your landing and you put her down O.K.
But before you know what’s happened, she’s headin’ for the hay.
So you pour the gas into her and she bounds up from the ground,
And you’re feeling mighty thankful for a chance to go around;
Down the base leg you come roaring, cut the gun and make the turn,
But you know that they are watching and your ears begin to burn.
You head in for the runway, note the drift and drop a wing,
And you feel the ship a-settlin’ as the wires begin to sing.
The ground comes up a-tearin’ and you ease back on the stick,
And you bear down on the rudder and you do it mighty quick.
But you know your case is hopeless when you feel her start to go,
And you crack the throttle open, but you know you’ve been too slow;
The horizon starts a-spinnin’ and the plane is swapping ends
As the dust begins to shower while the wing-tip slowly bends.
You can hear the spar a-splittin’ and the fabric tear apart,
While the terror down inside you takes a death grip on your heart;
Your hands and feet are paralyzed as the dirt goes flying past,
And you duck down in the cockpit as the motor coughs its last.
Then you climb out from the wreckage and your knees begin to shake,
And you feel humiliated for the ribbing you must take.
All the pilots crowd around you and advice begins to flow
And they tell you how it happened, just as if you didn’t know.
They criticize and advise you, and although they’re meanin’ well,
You try to laugh it off and tell ‘em all to go to hell.
Lots of pilots give prescriptions and enjoy to rub it in,
But there’s few that gave descriptions of the ground loops they were in.
“cut the gun”: pull the throttle to idle.