I came in over the San Gabriels pretty high and in such a way that no matter what the engine did I was sure I could make the runway at Whiteman. Sure enough, as I reduced the throttle toward idle, the engine got very rough and began to cough.
By this point I was lined up on a two mile final with about 3000’ to lose so I wasn’t sweating it. In fact I was mostly concerned with getting down in time. I continued an aggressive slip and worked the throttle to keep the engine running. Then again, as I reduced the power to idle, the engine coughed and died.
This put me in a funny position because I knew the engine was running too rich, but I hated to pull back the mixture knob to the point where it could kill the engine from being too lean. That said, I was not going to get down if the engine kept running and I didn’t want to have to go around. I decided that I was clearly going to make the airport and that once I was on the ground who cared if I had in fact landed without an engine.
I had been cleared for a straight in to runway 12 at Whiteman, but I heard the tower chatting with another aircraft in the pattern and it seemed to me that he might try to sneak them in front of me. While normally this wouldn’t be a problem, I didn’t want anyone in front of me. I’ve seen the tower call a go-around too many times because someone doesn’t properly clear the runway and I wasn’t going to get forced into a go-around situation with a rough engine. I told the tower that I was having engine trouble and that I would appreciate it if he would clear me straight in.
The tower obliged, and from that moment on I just focused on getting the plane down on the ground. The engine died a couple more times but I was always able to nurse it back to life by moving the throttle to full. In this manner I coaxed it along every 10 or so seconds with a throttle pump. I cleared the threshold and landed right on centerline. As I was making sure not to screw up at the last possible moment, the engine died again and I had to pump the throttle quickly before the prop stopped.
Anyhow, I taxi’d back to my spot got out and went in to work. I told Cedric that we had serious engine trouble and that we really needed to have it looked at. Well, a local A&P heard about the trouble and our symptoms and decided to come have a look. He reached in through the air intake and shook the carburetor saying: “well there’s your problem.”
It turns out that our carburetor had shook itself off the engine. We tightened the screws and all was well again. In fact he just texted me to say that he had safely landed in Napa where he is spending the weekend.