When you have a job that takes you away from your family for long periods of time, it makes the time you do have with them all the more precious, especially when you have young children. You want to build as many memories as you can in the short time that you have.
For one military pilot, that meant sharing his love of flying with his two young sons. But when he took them up on one particular flight, it would prove to be far more memorable than they expected…
Christopher Curry always wanted to fly. When he was just a year out of Arundel High School in Gambrills, Maryland, he climbed into a cockpit for the first time. For his 20th birthday, he got aerobatics lessons as a gift and learned how to do loops, spins, whirls, and other tricks. At that point, he was hooked for life.
Honing His Craft
After he graduated from Salisbury University Christopher joined the Marines. There, he attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida. Advancing in his development, he learned dogfighting in Corpus Christi, Texas, then to pilot Harrier jets in Cherry Point, North Carolina…
Christopher stayed with the Marines for years as a Harrier pilot, being deployed a number of times all around the world. After his latest deployment to Okinawa, Japan, he returned to his Maryland home and to his two sons just in time for summer.
While flying was what took Christopher away from his children for long stretches of time as he served in the Marines, flying was also a major bonding force for him and his two boys. Christopher loved taking Drake, age 8 and Cameron, age 4, up into the sky for short pleasure flights…
For Christopher, taking Drake and Cameron up was like approaching flying with new eyes. Rather than being another day at the office, Christopher was reminded of the power and freedom that comes with leaving the earth behind and soaring through the air.
Following in Daddy’s Footsteps
For Drake and Cameron, it’s a thrilling experience. Drake has already said that he wants to fly jets like his father when he grows up. Even little Cameron indicated his desire to be a pilot, grabbing for the controls during a helicopter tour of Baltimore…
Across the Bay
Over the summer his boys had plenty of free time so Christopher took them up 10 times. They would take off from Tipton Airport in Annapolis and fly across the Chesapeake Bay for crab melts. Cruising along at 4,000 feet, without a care in the world, they would gaze out the windows at the idyllic patchwork of farmland on the Eastern Shore.
Once school and autumn activities began for Drake and Cameron, they didn’t have as much time to go on flights with Christopher. But on a Friday two weeks before Thanksgiving, Drake’s school let out early. The boys didn’t have soccer practice or music lessons for the day so they jumped at the opportunity when Christopher suggested they go for a flight…
Christopher buckled Drake in the passenger seat and Cameron in the back of a single-engine Socata Tobago before taking the 1,600 pound plane down the Tipton Airport runway and up into the sky. The brief circular flight was like any other until, 45 minutes in, Christopher noticed a slight tremble in the engine.
The propeller was slowing down and when Christopher pushed the prop lever, there was no response. He didn’t panic. His years of training in the Marine Corps had prepared him for just these sorts of situations. Taking a deep breath, he took stock of his situation…
Looking over to Drake, Christopher saw his son either hadn’t noticed the trouble they were in or was confident enough in his father’s abilities that he simply wasn’t bothered. In the back seat, Cameron was napping peacefully. Christopher calmly reduced his speed.
Could Be Ok
The plane was losing altitude, bit by bit. The good news was they were already heading back to the airport. If the engine could hold out for the next 45 minutes, everything would be just fine. But as the minutes ticked by, the slight tremble of the engine gradually and steadily got worse…
Not Looking Good
Christopher realized that at the rate they were losing altitude, they wouldn’t be able to make it back to Tipton Airport. Within the span of just a few minutes, they had gone from a peaceful afternoon’s flight to full on emergency mode. Thinking quickly, he pointed the plane toward the closer Lee Airport and radioed air traffic control.
Not Going To Make It
“I’m an emergency aircraft … pending engine failure … I’m flying in direct,” Christopher said, notifying air traffic control. It was at that point that the slowing engine came to a dead stop. At 1,400 feet and falling fast, there was no way the plane was going to reach the runway…
Christopher pointed the nose of the plane even lower. He had to maintain a speed of at least 75 mph or the plane would stall and very quickly drop out of the sky. The entire airplane rattled and shook violently as white smoke seeped into the cockpit.
Searching For an Out
Cameron was now awake and both he and Drake were crying. Christopher followed his training, trying to get maximum glide out of his unpowered plane as he searched for a suitable place to touch down, such as an unplowed field or an empty road…
Through the Smoke
As the plane dipped lower and lower, Christopher spotted a glimmer of hope as he squinted through the smoke in the cockpit. They were rapidly approaching Route 50, a highway just outside of Annapolis.
Coming Down Hard
Swooping in maybe 20 feet above oncoming traffic, Christopher had no choice but to try and touch down in an empty right lane. “Hold on,” he shouted over the sound of the airplane’s stall alarm as he put his arm out over Drake’s chest…
After they hit the ground, one of the plane’s wings clipped a light pole, spinning the plane around. They smashed into a guardrail, bringing the battered plane to a halt. In the sudden silence, Christopher looked to his boys. “We’re alive,” he said. “We’re alive,” Drake repeated back to him.
In the crisp November air, a number of passersby stopped to help at the unusual crash scene. One gave a large coat to wrap up the boys and keep them warm. Another played cartoons on her phone for them until firefighters arrived. Driving home after the crash, Drake asked his dad “When can we go flying again.”