National Geographic : 1957 Jul
112 "... If Thou Roam Earth's Highways Wide, the Lord Be at Thy Side..." This inspiration, taped to Charlie's dashboard when the Thomases left Dakar, buoyed and comforted the adventurers during many anxious moments. On a flight to istanbul it saved the pilot from panic when storm, darkness, failing gasoline supply, and an out-of-range radio beacon combined to threaten calamity. Here Lowell Thomas, Jr., calls the control tower from an airfield parking strip. Charlie broke out of the overcast at 2,000 feet, with the runway lights to port. We quickly entered the traffic pattern, and I rolled onto the final approach to the lighted runway, slowed to 100 miles per hour. Then, with flaps down, I cut to 80 and from force of habit set up a slight power approach. I was just congratulating myself on our good fortune when Cough-splutter-silence. We were out of gas, and the engine had quit! New Emergency at 500 Feet Bill was surprisingly calm. "Can you make it, Lowell?" Flaps down, air speed slow, he asked. altitude 500 feet. "Bill," I replied, "I don't think so." We held our breath as the plane inexorably sank, too rapidly to make the end of the runway. At that moment the engine caught and surged momentarily. For perhaps as much as two seconds it pulled strongly. It coughed again, hesitated, and pulled once more, for perhaps another two seconds. Then it quit for good. It had given us a final three or four seconds of power, but that was enough. We barely cleared the lights at the head of the runway. The wheels touched, and we bounced before settling down. With the propeller standing straight up and down, the plane had just enough mo mentum to roll off the runway onto a taxi way. The tower sent out the gas truck. We took on only a couple of gallons before taxiing to the terminal. An hour or so later Tay greeted me in Istanbul. She seemed to know that something desperate had taken place. She told me that when she heard I was coming through, she had looked out the window at the reflection of the city's lights on the overcast and had said a prayer. It is easy to say that Bill and I had reached the Istanbul field "on instruments." But I knew that something more than instruments had guided us in through the night to safety.