Above & Beyond: Shooting Up a Shooting Star
There's more than one way to dump extra fuel before landing.
- By Lieutenant Colonel Alfred (Joe) D’Amario, U.S. Air Force (ret.)
- Air & Space magazine, March 2009
(Page 3 of 4)
I had so much bulk on—flight jacket, parachute harness, and life jacket—that I couldn’t reach across my chest with my right hand to get the gun from under my left arm. Finally, it dawned on me that I could reach the gun with my left hand. I jacked a round into the chamber, opened the canopy, and, with the gun in my right hand and flying the airplane with my left, I tried to point the gun at the front end of the left tip tank, far enough forward so as not to hit the wing.
I pulled the trigger—and missed.
I was so anxious I forgot that a semi-automatic pistol reloads after each shot. I manually jacked another round into the chamber while ejecting a round over my shoulder.
The only way I could hit the tank was to lean down and aim along the barrel of the gun. I put my head down and sighted at the widest part of the tank and about two feet from its front.
The bullet punched a hole through the near side of the tank and went out the other side. I quickly squeezed off two more rounds. Now I had six holes in the tank, and I could see fuel streaming out.
Just as I prepared to empty the rest of the magazine into the tank, the tower officer called again. He asked how many holes I had and how many rounds I had fired. I mentally counted one that missed, one over my shoulder, and three that hit the tank. “Five,” I told him. He told me to stop shooting immediately. (I later learned that when he heard that I had hit the tank only three times out of five, he envisioned me waving the gun around wildly, spraying bullets everywhere.)
I started to put the gun back into the holster, but now it was loaded, and I could accidentally shoot myself. While I was trying to figure where I could safely stash it, I held it in my right hand—the same one holding the control stick, so the gun was pointed at the instrument panel. Great, I thought, now I’ll accidentally shoot the panel. I moved the gun to my left hand, and the tower officer called again. I had to depress the microphone button on the throttle with my left hand and the gun was in the way. Finally I said The hell with it, opened the canopy, pointed the gun out, and fired until the clip was empty.
I spent the next 30 minutes flying around with the left wing down, letting the fuel drain out of the tip tank while slowly working my way back to the base. The tank held 165 gallons, so I hoped I could drain 150. By the time I got there, the tank was empty, and I made a normal landing.