Helps Pilot Who Lost Electrical System Land
It's the one word all
pilots hope they never have to use: "Mayday." When it is made for
real, it can make a pilot’s mouth go dry and his stomach
That is the feeling pilot Naim Fazlija said he when he had to
make the distress call to German radar controllers when his Piper
Chieftain twin lost its electrical system on a flight from the
Netherlands to Geneva last month. The charter plane was flying at
11,000 feet over a hazy Germany.
Mr. Fazlija said he and co-pilot Artan Berisha remained calm so
as not to alarm their five passengers.
"This was the first time in my 10 years of flying that I had to
make a distress call like this. I was like a bird without eyes,"
the pilot from Kosovo said. "There was absolutely no power in the
plane except for a hand-held radio and a small global positioning
Knowing he could not risk flying in such low visibility the
remaining 200 miles to Geneva, Mr. Fazlija knew he needed help
While Mr. Fazlija was contemplating his limited options, Maj.
Pete Olson was flying his A-10 Thunderbolt II back to Spangdahlem
after a training mission with three other aircraft. The 81st
Fighter Squadron pilot received the distressed aircraft signal from
a German ground radar controller.
"I was a little worried when I got the call, but I knew I had to
act fast," said Major Olson, who is also the 52nd Operations
Support Squadron chief of A-10 wing weapons and tactics.
The major cleared his team to return to base and put his 12
years of training to work. Within minutes, he was in airspace over
Baumholder, Germany, and tried to contact the civilian aircraft on
the radar controller’s search and rescue frequency.
"Follow me," Major Olson told Mr. Fazlija over his crackling
But Mr. Fazlija continued flying a triangular route because he
could barely hear the major’s instructions and could not even
track his own speed. Hope, like Mr. Fazlija’s ability to see
from the plane, seemed to dwindle -- until he spotted something
coming upon his airplane. Something with two large engines and one
heckuva gun up front.
Whereas in combat such
a sight would cause fear, it was a welcome sight for Fazlija.
"I didn’t even see the A-10 coming," Mr. Fazlija said.
"His plane just appeared under mine like a rocket climbing. It was
definitely something like you’d see in the movies!"
In true wingman fashion, Major Olson flew his jet around the
Chieftain (file photo of type, right). He stayed in formation, at
times from 10 to 20 feet, to as far away as 3,000 feet.
Mr. Fazlija said the major’s maneuvering signs were a
critical factor in leading his plane under the weather to a safe
landing at Hahn Airport 15 minutes later. The 15 minutes seemed to
elapse in the blink of an eye, he said -- but it still allowed him
ample time to ponder his mortality and that of his passengers.
"I didn’t care that I might die," he said. "I could only
think that the lives of my co-pilot, passengers -- and possibly
people on the ground -- could be cut short by my actions."
Major Olson’s supervisor said the feat comes as no
surprise to him.
"Certainly the outstanding airmanship and skill displayed is
what I’d expect from Pete every time he flies," said Lt. Col.
John Cherrey, the fighter squadron commander. "This shows the type
of decisive decision making we get from our daily combat
Mr. Fazlija said the brush with disaster has only bolstered his
love of flying and his gratitude to his unexpected
"I truly appreciate Major Olson and the entire U.S. Air Force,"
Mr. Fazlija said. "His professionalism led us to safety. I knew we
were in good hands."
(Aero-News Salutes Senior Airman Amaani Lyle, 52nd Fighter
Wing Public Affairs Office)