Unlike the previous poems that I have posted, I did not write this poem. This poem was written about me. When I was a T-41 instructor pilot at the USAF Academy, one of my academy students, in practicing a forced landing, actually turned the ignition switch off (he was supposed to just touch the ignition, not actually turn it off), and I failed to recognize that he had done so until we were about to touch down on the rough open ground east of Colorado Springs.
An IP’s Lament
by Major Donald Godlewski, Safety Directorate,
Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, March 1975
“Your engine has failed!” said the wise old IP.
“Now get us both down and don’t dare hit a tree.”
The silence was loud but the crew marked it not,
Till making darn sure that they’d glide to the spot.
The fledgling was shook. It is now plain to see,
While taming his bird, he had turned off the key!
No response from the engine was the wise one’s first clue
That the pretty approach had turned sticky as glue.
O’er the dials and switches his eyes quickly darted.
When he found the switch off, ‘twas too late to get started.
The approach was continued and landing completed
On a field that the farmer had just seeded.
No damage was done to the trusty old steed
And the student has learned from his misguided deed.
But the IP, we trust, learned the most . . . that old fox
Will never let fledglings put him in a box!
Their actions are sudden, their thinking oft muddled,
Without your firm guidance, they end up befuddled.
So key your attention to each of their motions
Lest you be the object of funeral devotions.
The poem is factually correct, except for the part about the farmer’s freshly seeded field. We did not land on a freshly seeded field; we landed on (thankfully) an open stretch of rough, bare ground; I guess the writer needed to find a rhyme for “completed,” and “seeded” fit the rhyme. We bounced once, very firmly, before we started our landing roll, and I was impressed with the sturdy gear construction of the T-41. The aircraft was a T-41B, with a larger engine than that in the T-41A. The larger engine was necessary for the higher altitude required for flying at the academy. The academy’s airstrip is 7,000 feet high, and we often flew to 12,000 feet while practicing airwork. (We needed to have oxygen available above 13,000 feet.) The T-41B was an ideal training aircraft: sturdy, dependable, reliable, no bad habits.