Monday, October 31, 2011



"The Great Barbeau" was out and about Sunday afternoon!  Today I received an email, with pictures, from Gardy Wilson:  "I could not determine which Dare-Devil-Dude was at the controls. . .  but the little bi-plane sure looked good yesterday afternoon."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Jellystone Work Day

The Hatz is getting a new cockpit cover.  Way to go Yvonne!

Apparently enjoying himself. . .  Brother Baker has to use a grinder to mount the grinder on the work table.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Keep the Briefcase

My first flying job was in 1983 as a part time Flight Instructor/Charter Pilot for Thurston Aviation in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thurston Aviation, now long departed, was your typical mid size city FBO.  As a Cessna dealer, the Charter Department operated just about everything Cessna offered in it's lineup of twin engine airplanes, including a Citation.  The only single engine airplane in the fleet was a 172.  That's where this story takes place.

One morning I walked into the lobby and saw our Charter Department dispatcher standing beside a young man who looked to be around 20 years old.  He called me over and said the fellow wanted to take an airplane ride around Charlotte.  He said the 172 was available and asked if I could fly the trip.  I said sure, introduced myself, and then went out to preflight the airplane while they took care of the paperwork.  Later, when we were getting settled in the 172, I asked the guy if there was any place special he wanted to see.  He said:  "No, I just always thought it would be cool to ride in an airplane."  I thought I detected a hint of alcohol on his breath, so I probed deeper.  He said it was a spur of the moment thing.  It was a nice day; he had extra cash and thought why not today.  He didn't appear to be drunk, so I thought, why not!

On the taxi out he told me he had graduated from South Mecklenburg High School two years earlier.  That seemed like a good place to start.  I told him we would circle the high school and then fly a counter-clockwise circle around the city.  I would show him the Charlotte Coliseum (now Bojangles Arena), UNCC, Lake Norman, the Catawba River, and downtown Charlotte.  He said he thought that would be fine.

It was mid morning and we had been in the air about twenty minutes.  It had been mostly smooth, except for a few bumps---which was pretty good for March.  We had circled the high school, flown over the coliseum, and were on our way north to the lake when he looked at me and said:  "I don't feel too good."  I immediately called approach control and told them we needed to return to Charlotte.  They acknowledged and said to stand by.  Then about ten Piedmont Airlines flights checked in on the frequency.  I knew it was going to be a long time before we got our chance to land.

I opened all the air vents, turned the cabin heat down, and tried to be as smooth as possible.  Then I started looking for the sick-sacs---glove box, seat back pockets, everywhere.  No sick-sacs!  I should have done a better preflight!  "Lord; please don't let this guy puke all over the airplane!"  The only thing in the airplane besides my Jepp book, and the checklist (that said nothing about sick-sacs) was a white plastic document briefcase that contained the aircraft log books and sales brochures.  It had a fold-over top with a small brass latch, but it looked waterproof.  It would have to do.  I dumped the contents on the back seat, and handed the empty briefcase to my passenger.  I told him there were no sick-sacs, and if he had to "heave" use the briefcase.  He looked at me and said:  "I'm not going to throw up, I've got to urinate!"

Did he ever!  By the time he was finished the 11 x 14 inch briefcase was about one third full.  I guess about three beer's worth!  The expression on his face said:  Now what do I do?  He was looking at his side window.  I could see the wheels turning. . .  He was thinking about dumping it out!  As he reached for the window latch I shouted out:  "STOP!"  "If you try to dump that out we'll both get drenched!"  I had visions of urine mist blowing into the cabin as he tried to empty the briefcase in the 115 knot slipstream!  I told him to just hold the case upright on the floor between his feet, and he could dump it out after we landed.  So that's what he did.  He even latched the fold-over top!  I thought that was a nice touch.

We emptied the briefcase on the taxiway, abeam the old terminal building, on the west side of Runway 18 Left.  After we parked, and the engine was shutdown, he told me he was sorry and embarrassed about what had happened.  I told him not to worry about it.  I also told him he could keep the briefcase!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mystery Solved

Greetings Brethren!

We have a print of a Great Lakes Biplane on the wall in our family room.  It's by Sam Lyons, and is titled "Gone Flying."  The scene has a blue and white Great Lakes parked in front of an old corrugated metal hangar, on what is surely a small town airport---just about everything I love about general aviation.  In the background the pilot is hanging a sign on the hangar door that says:  Gone Flying.  I often wondered why Sam painted the guy wearing a flying helmet when he wasn't in the cockpit yet.  Now I think I know why.

On Thursday Brother Baker and I had planned on flying over to Rutherford County to have lunch with a some of the guys from our side of the field.  As it turned out, it was kind of breezy.  Instead of tempting fate in the 21 knot crosswind, we decided to just hang at Jellystone Air Park and work on the Hatz's brake system---a job that ended up being much easier than I thought it would be.  Of course I was assisting the Zen Master, so I don't know why I thought it would be difficult!  We even finished in time to have lunch with the guys at the Ebernezer Grill in Rock Hill.

Before closing up shop for the day we decided a taxi test to check the brakes would be a good idea.  Since I wasn't going to fly, I put the flying helmet and headset in the front cockpit.  Then I leaned forward and promptly whacked the top of my bald head on the back side of the windshield frame.  I had some momentum going too!  On inspection Brother Baker said:  "Yeah, it's oozing a bit."  I've done this once before.  From now on I'm donning the helmet before I climb in the cockpit!  I guess Sam knows what he's painting.