Airfield Stories

Ah, the sweet smell of avgas in the morning… :cool:

After two weeks of illness I finally rose from the nearly dead to amble down to the local airport this morning. The first thing I realized was that I had just missed the usual go-for-breakfast crowd. As in - as I pulled in the parking lot their wheels were leaving the runway. :frowning:

Maybe I should have moved just a little quicker this morning…

Anyhow, it was one of the first warm days of spring, so I parked me on the picnic table and tried to look forelorn and pitiful. Amazingly enough, it actually worked. “Where you been? Sick? Still don’t feel up to being the pilot? Oh, you poor thing… climb in the back of the airplane, I’ll take you for a ride…”

Anyhow, flying is always an adventure to one degree or another. My first ride of the day was with this guy S, who has owed me a ride for about six months now (he was late getting back and wiped out my time slot on a rental plane). So we went up in the C172 he has a quarter-share in. We take off and…

(Brief digression: Two important distinctions in flying are between VFR and IFR flying. “IFR” stands for “Instrument Flight Rules”, meaning you are flying by looking at the instruments in the airplane, and no minimal visibility is required. “VFR” stands for “Visual Flight Rules”, meaning flight you conduct mostly by looking out the window to see where you’re going. Needless to say, you need to be able to see where you’re going if you want to do this, and thus, minimal visibility rules have been instituted, for the most part a minimum of 3 miles. If asked, pilots flying VFR may say “oh, yes, visibility was 3 miles” which means it was 3 miles. Or they might say “Of course visibility was 3 miles” which often means maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t, but we won’t admit it to flying in any manner other than completely legal. And that’s all you non-pilots need to know, so back to the story)

We take off and of course visibility was at least three miles in low-laying haze, just a touch heavier than we expected, but we could clearly see the runway and S was interested in landing practice so it was all good. We’re humming along on downwind, keeping an eye out for other airborne traffic, and as S is turning onto the base leg he says “Oh, by the way, I haven’t flown this plane in 4 months”. Geez, guy now you tell me! But he has been flying a Champ every weekend and rented a Warrior a few times in those four months, so I’m not really concerned. I mean, I wouldn’t get into the plane unless I could trust the guy. And here we are, on final approach to the runway and the nose is aiming left of center. Let me rephrase that. It’s aiming left of the pavement. I’m starting to think that S has been flying that Champ off sod so much he’s forgotten that you’re allowed to land on asphalt. But he does get it on the pavement and the touchdown is so smoooooooooooth, the wheels just kissing the ground.

We did a number of other laps around the patch, S getting a little more precise with each one, and the haze getting a little thinner, and the air getting just a little bumpier as the breeze starts to build with the day.

Then S decided he had enough and put it away. I hung out for awhile more, had some lunch with one of the guys down at the local cafe, then back to the airport to pick up my truck and start back home.

As I’m starting to head to my truck I see someone waving me over from the flight line. It’s E, who will shorly be flying M’s plane, a hot-rod aircraft known as a Bellonca Viking, around our field also known as the “Flying Coffin” because it is not considered a beginner’s airplane. M, you see, would like to have some video of his airplane flying, and since no one else seems to have successfully taken pictures of it in flight he will do the job himself, but that, of course, requires someone else to fly the plane.

“You’ve been sick? You poor thing… get in the back of the plane, I’ll give you a ride”.

So it’s E in the front along with C, another pilot E took pity on (C’s plane is being repainted, therefore he is not flying much), and me in the back. As usual, the back seat intercom is not working, the engine is loud, requiring much shouting (and my voice is still hoarse), and with the sun beating in the windows it’s… ah… ‘tis a manly scent in the cockpit, with a touch of me, too. Lawdy, lawdy, must be summer comin’ in because I am too young for hot flashes.

Now, Bellonca’s are, as I said, not considered a beginner’s plane. It is not forgiving of mistakes or inattention. Even on the ground. It has all the ground stability of a taildragger in a tricyle gear airplane. Now, E is an excellent pilot, but despite his efforts at Rudderdance we are waltzing back and forth a bit along the centerline going out to the runway. A quick but thorough check of systems to make sure everything is OK and zooooooom!, we’re off.

This puppy is fast. Woowee! Yeeha! We’re going like a bat out of hell now, boys! And the haze has pretty much cleared away so, despite some bumpy air it’s a fine day to fly and a fine machine to be flying. E flies some, then C tries flying (a little less smooth - it’s his first time flying a Bellonca, although he owns a bit of a hot-rod plane himself). Then E is flying again and…

(OK, here’s another brief digression, this one about digestion: Due to complications of my illness, I have been on a “low residue” diet for about half a week. That means I can eat steak or fish and lots of pasta but nothing with fiber. No fruit but lots of fruit juice. And it did work, and I am feeling better, but you see, lunch was basically a slab of greasy, juicy ol’ ham - lukewarm pork, you might say - and a big ol’ glass of grapefruit juice. Tasty, but not exactly the meal that sits easiest in the old stomach. And remember - I climbed into this airplane about 15 minutes after eating. Think about it. Also remember, I am not hooked into the intercom system, so we have to do a lot of shouting to be heard.)

Then E is flying again, and getting a little frisky. :eek: First he climbs… then turns one way… then turns steeper :eek: the other way… then turns… well, about turn 5 :eek: or 6 :eek: :eek: we’re up to about a 60 degree bank, :eek: which happens to be about 2 g’s, :eek: and the tail gives this cute little :eek: sashay :eek: wiggle :eek: :eek: which, me being in the back seat, I :eek: well :eek: and :eek: truly :eek: feel…

:eek: LEVEL OUT!:eek:


:eek: LEVEL OUT!:eek:


:eek: LEVEL OUT :eek: OR SEE MY LUNCH :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek:


Since sound is clearly not working I make gagging motions. OK… THAT worked. Maybe a little too good.


Yeah, guys, I’m OK as long as we’re not flying sideways to the ground under alien gravity forces, alright? And I promise not to barf on a plane none of us own, OK?

After about five minutes the guys are convinced I’m not about to turn inside out in the back seat and we go back to having fun.

Anyhow, one of the local twin engines is up flying, the Apache called the “Pumpkin” for it’s distinctive and obnoxious orange color. It’s that same shade of orange used by state road construction vehicles with pinstriping the color of traffic cones. You see this thing coming miles away. Or, in our case, going miles away. E pours on the juice and we come up on the Apache from behind and, so help me, this hot-rod single barely big enough to squeeze three adults into is now flying an honest-to-God circle around this twin engine airplane. Show-off. :rolleyes: Hope that got onto the video tape. :cool:

(Third and last digression - because someone always asks. Yes, both the Viking and the Apache pilots were in communication with each other, we didn’t just sneak up and surprise this guy. And we maintain adequate and safe separations, both horizontal and vertical because we were having fun, not stupidity)

Then it’s back home. The Bellonca comes in fast. Very nice ground rush, with E doing his Rudderdance again, C going “There has GOT to be something wrong with the ground steering on this thing” and E going “No, they’re all like this” and “No, they can’t be” and “Yes, they are” and so on and so forth.

Which, all and all, is a pretty nice way to spend a Sunday morning and afternoon. This, by the way, is my definition of a quet weekend and taking it easy.

Let’s see -

a) no dinged planes

b) no injured people

c) not even a barf

You call this a story?

Try letting a bozo CFI initiate a spin in an AA1 (which, if it goes through 360[sup]o[/sup], cannot be recovered) while you’re in the left seat - THEN tell us a story :wink:

Good story. I would have been flying in a Cub this weekend if the weather had allowed it.

Am I allowed to point out that it’s a Bellanca? (A nice plane, BTW.) No? OK, I won’t.

It’s threads like this one that really make me miss flying – not that I don’t miss it every day. It seems I either have the money or I have the tome, but not both at the same time. Time. Time has a way of passing without notice. It’s been over a year since I’ve flung a rotor.

The other day I bought a copy of Plane & Pilot. As much as I like helicopters, airplanes are much more practical. There’s an article that says I can buy a 1965 Cessna 172F for $230/month. Not too shabby. Of course, I’ll be losing my job within the next 12 months. I could buy one outright, but I want to buy a rental property. Maybe I should just cut lose with a couple of kilobucks and put it on account over at Group 3. Hie myself up to VNY for a bit of ground school and a bi-ennial and then start flying on weekends. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Many people are afraid of flying. I don’t understand that. How could anyone be afraid of the beauty of the earth as seen from 500 feet? Or 5,000 feet? But they are. Actually, I doubt they’re afraid of flying at all. They’re just afraid of crashing. But that rarely happens. Most pilots fly their whole lives without a serious problem, much less a crash.

Perhaps some of those whom flying fills with dread will read one of these stories that Broomstick posts, and decide to give it a try in spite of their fears. Perhaps they will see what Broomstick is talking about, and be converted.

Join usssssss…!

Oh… you want barfing stories… (sicko)

Or maybe I could talk about the student pilot who sheared the right wing off the school C172 while attempting to park?

Hey, it was largely uneventful, that’s why it’s in MPSIMS. If something bad had happened it would have been in the Pit. If you want bad, look there.

And, oh yeah - an hour ago a small plane “crashed” (according to the news) into Ridge road between Cleveland and Rutledge, about 4 blocks from my home (no joke- the pilot is in critical condition. My guess is he tried an emergency landing at night - the road is 5 lanes wide there, with street lights, and the surronding area is largely dark after dark.) Is that really the sort of story you’d prefer?

Anyhow - when I have a hair-curling experience I’ll let ya know, but thought I’d share mildly amusing ordinary life at the airfield. Because most of what folks hear is horror anyhow and I wanted to balance things out a bit.

The sheared wing would be good…

anything involving the NTSB is good… serious injury/death is, however, not appropiate

like the CFI (with whom I was NOT familiar) tried a stall landing - from 30’ up - a PA-28 is not up to that kind of drop test - wiped out the prop, crank, nosegear, starboard main, firewall, belly skin, and a bulkhead or two.

Kicker: this was the THIRD plane this instructor had destroyed at the SAME field - who was allowing this twit to use a plane by this time?

not horror - just ‘how dumb can one person be?’ stories are heart-warming :slight_smile:

Funny, but even after 30 years, the smell I associate with flying is…TOMATO SOUP. The Hunts factory was located at the end of the runway of Fullerton Airport in southern California.


I learned to fly a Cessna 150 (“Beetle of the skies”) at the same time I learned to drive. I remember:
[li]learning to recover from a stall. My dad, a WW2 pilot (who hadn’t flown in quite some time) told me to push the nose down after losing lift. Of course we went into a dive. I would have heard my instructor yelling at me if my feet weren’t around my ears.[/li][li]pulling on the carb heat on approach, and instead of coming out the usual 6 inches or so, the knob came out about 2 feet. “Well damn, that’s not supposed to happen.”my first case of vertigo. Not fun at all to realize how unaware of your own body’s position relative to this world you can get. [/li][li]my first spin. Awesome.[/li][/ul]I gotta get back in a plane. Or maybe a helicopter. Johnny L.A., I took my first helicopter ride last summer when a mosquito commission pilot took me up over Cape May. What a terrific ride! I felt like a bird.

Love your stories, Broomstick!

Well, since I mentioned the accident I might as well tie up that loose end, even if it’s not mundane.

A gentleman at the local airport who owns a VariEze felt compelled to make and emergency landing onto Ridge Road about an hour after dark on Sunday. Why he felt this was necessary I don’t know, it could be any of several reasons. It must have been serious, because at that point he’s almost exactly between two airports, both about 6 miles away. It’s also pretty much the only lighted strip of pavement wide enough to land on other than the two runways in the immediate vicinity.

Apparently, he successfully merged with the flow of traffic on the road, dodging numerous overhead powerlines. Scared the dickens out of the folks on the road, at least one of which thought a UFO was landing (if you’ve never seen a VariEze – that’s actually an understandable mistake, they are weird looking airplanes). Unfortunately, while rolling down the road he clipped a lightpole with a wing with disasterous results.

In other words, he made a successful emergency landing, then had a traffic accident.

Anyhow, the plane is destroyed. No one else got hurt. The pilot has some broken bones and other serious injuries to his legs and pelvis, but, baring complications, he is expected to make a full recovery.

We will return to our regularly scheduled benign “oopsies” next post.