Bill Hatcher Books, LLC
Excerpts From Principles of Flight. (For excerpts from The Marble Room, please scroll further down this page.)

(from Principles of Flight, Chapter One, The Red Planet)

I held on with all my strength, though it would not save me. Far below, the plane’s shadow dashed over a stand of cottonwood trees, whose yellow leaves fluttered in the setting sun as if waving hello or goodbye. They reminded me of when I was a boy, and the seasons I had spent hunting with my father. Today was his birthday.

My copilot had set the emergency transponder code to 7700 and radioed mayday, while I searched for a landing site and tried not to fixate on the altimeter. It read nine thousand feet above sea level, which was four thousand feet AGL (above ground level). At sixty-five knots—the plane’s best glide speed—we could fly for five minutes, or seven miles, over the Utah desert. The nearest airport was twelve miles away and surrounded by subdivisions.

My SoftComm headset blocked all sound except a high-pitched whir of blood that sang in my ears. Like a tombstone, the propeller stood motionless in front of the engine cowling. I could not remember how long it had been that way.

At three thousand feet over the Green River, I spotted a short, dirt airstrip intended for ultra-light aircraft. It ran to the edge of a low mesa. At two thousand feet, I made shallow turns to align our plane with the runway, a maneuver that stole altitude faster than I expected, and we lost another thousand feet. On final approach, we came in short. Our Cessna 172 sank below the level of the runway and sailed toward the side of the mesa as our shadow raced up to meet us. A light on the instrument panel blinked red, and I recalled the pilot’s memory aid: White you’re light. Red you’re dead.

Before my next thought, which was after the end but before the beginning, the yoke column sheared, bones shattered, and my head smashed into the instrument panel.

Still, I could not let go, even if it killed me.

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