MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. --
Marine Corps Air
Station Beaufort exclusively handles military air traffic. Every once in a
while, however, it becomes necessary to help fellow aviators out of bad
situations. Marines with Air Traffic Control aboard the air station had the
opportunity to do just that Nov. 30.
Samuel Tims, a
local pilot, was taking his Cessna 182 aircraft out for a night flight when he
ran into trouble. He began his night expecting to perform some night landings
on the Beaufort County Airport.
“I took off and as
I cleared the departure end of the runway I caught the first hints of a thin
layer of moisture,” said Tims. “Within a matter of seconds I was consumed
inside of complete obscurity.”
The layer of fog
was so thick that he could not see what was in front of him. Tims continued his
climb and the fog eventually cleared at around 600 feet. When he reached 1000
feet he began his decent in order to land back at the airport.
“All was ok at
this point and even though it was obscured, I could still make out the runway,”
soon as he dipped back into the layer of fog he lost all visibility again.
Unable to see the runway, Tims climbed to a safe altitude and began to assess
“At this point, I
called up Beaufort Approach,” said Tims. “I told them what had happened, that I
had limited fuel.”
advised Tims to fly to the Lowcountry Regional Airport in Walterboro, S.C.
However when he got there he saw that the runway there was also obscured. At
this point he was running out of options.
“The word urgency
had become emergency but it was hard to say,” said Tims.
The glide slope, a
signal that allows pilots to track their approach for landing, had a very weak
signal and Tims did not trust it enough to attempt a blind landing. He was
directed to fly back to Beaufort County and attempt another landing. At this
point air traffic control aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort received
word about Tims’ predicament. Nick Wallace, an air traffic controller,
contacted him over the radio.
“I told him that I
didn't really want to declare an emergency but I also knew that I was running
out of options,” said Tims. “At this point, I didn't hesitate any longer and
declared the emergency.”
It became clear
that the situation was life or death. Tims’ only option was to land on the air
station. Lance Cpl. Matthew Pittman took
control of communications at this point.
“He instructed me
not to reply to any of his instructions and began the rapid fire delivery of
extremely clear and precise heading and glide slope information,” said Tims.
to land on the runway, Tims once again lost all visibility. With guidance from
Pittman he was able to safely navigate through the fog and land.
“I can tell you
that this was the most demanding experience I've faced as a pilot,” said Tims.
“Taking an approach down to approximately 60 feet with zero visibility with
only the guidance of verbal instruction was not easy.
Due to the
extraordinary circumstances of the landing, safety personnel met him on the
flight line to ensure the safety of everyone on the air station. Tims made it
home safe and sound and has nothing but gratitude for the Marines who saved his
“Even though I was
under a severe amount of stress, I can't help but think about how these
controllers were feeling at the same time,” said Tims “I never heard anything
but perfection in their voices and it was incredibly reassuring to have their
assistance. I'm alive and healthy today because of two absolutely incredible