My best-mid air encounter
Crazy title for a post…”my best mid-air encounter.” Usually when someone utters the words, “mid-air” they mean, as in, mid-air collision which can make for a really bad day. This however, although it started out nerve wracking, turned out to be one of my cooler moments in flying.
I was making a short 15 minute flight in a Baron between two local airports. The weather had been crummy all morning and was just starting to improve with 2,800′ broken clouds with decent visibility below the deck. I was getting my last vector for the ILS approach where the Baron is hangared when approach notified me of VFR traffic at 12 o’clock and less than a mile which appeared to be descending. A quick glance at my Garmin confirmed what they had said with a traffic symbol showing the traffic was indeed 500′ above, 12 o’clock and showing a descent. I was right at the bases of the clouds, joining the LOC and couldn’t understand where this traffic could be and why they weren’t talking to approach control when it was obvious the traffic was in less than VFR conditions. Just about when I was really getting worried, I popped out of the cloud I was in…and there, 100 feet above and less than a 1/4 mile was a flight of four P-51 Mustangs. I had to hold back the tears, it was beautiful.
Apparently my traffic was on their way to Rickenbacker airport in Columbus, Ohio for a Mustang fly-in and thought the weather was good enough to scud run over.
There was something about that day; maybe the clouds or the green grass from the recent rain that made the scene I beheld somewhat surreal. I obviously, was never in Europe during WWII when those magnificent airplanes ruled the sky but, when I saw those airplanes at 12 o’clock high with a cumulus cloud and rolling green background it reminded me of what I always pictured it would have looked like. Four fighters back from a hard sortie, thankful to fight another mission, on their way to get more fuel and try again. I wish I had the wherewithal to break off my approach and go chasing after them. Maybe they would have let me join them even for a minute or two.
Maybe we could have scared some Skyhawk or other Baron into a similar terrifying fit of patrioism.