Tag Archives: Cessna 140

Should’a done its

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

The last post about creeping cowardice was going to have some of this as a part of it, but became too lengthy so I saved it with the thought I’ve got a while to live yet and might still work it in somewhere.

I believe one of the ways a person might attain valid perspectives about himself and his life events is through hindsight.  Might be the only way.  If a person can look back and seriously say to himself, “I should have done it,” probably he should have done it.

I can’t say that about those two mine shafts because I know even now I’d have done them if I could, and I recognize for whatever reason, I couldn’t.  No ‘should have done it’ hidden in there.

But around 2002, 2003, there’s a should have done it I still occasionally experience a flash of regret about.  Just until my insistence about not to regret anything in my life kicks in to trump it.

There’s an airstrip, or was an airstrip parallel to the old highway running between Belen, Los Lunas, and Isleta Pueblo I used to always swing into when I was in the area.  A number of old airplanes to walk around and look at, wonder about, kick the tires of.  The airstrip was gradually becoming inactive.

But at one end there was an old Cessna 140 tied down.  I’d always go over and walk around, check it out.  Sometimes sit inside it.  Watch the tires gradually lose their air and grass get taller around it.

I asked the guys running a motorcycle shop that used to be an airplane related business about it.  The 140 belonged to a man who lived in the neighborhood adjacent to the air park.  He’d been experiencing advancing dementia … quit flying the plane a couple of years back.  One of them heard he was in a nursing home, and that his wife had died.  The house and plane were in an ambiguous ownership state as a result of complicated family matters.

When I heard that I began to realize that old plane needed to be taken around the patch a few times before it rotted to the ground.  Or before it found its way into Trade-A-Plane and got sold to someone in Alabama to fly off or be hauled off.

I did a lot of planning about that plane.  The battery was going to be dead, and maybe the fuel would have gone bad, but probably not.  Avgas tends to last a long time in a tied down airplane.  But there’s probably water condensed inside the tank if it wasn’t left full.  Water under the gas that would be drained off before the engine started.

I borrowed an air bottle and brought the tire pressure up on one of the trips, checked the oil, got inside and tested the controls.  Everything hunky dory.  Just needed to draw the water off the fuel tanks.  Fuel guages showed one full, one 3/4 tank.  The 3/4 tank would be the one most likely to have water in the fuel tank.

I never made a conscious decision not to take that old bird around the patch, do a few touch and goes.  My bud in Belen,  Deano, died and other matters kept me from going into that area without a special trip.  I suppose it just slipped my mind.

Which didn’t keep it from creeping back into my consciousness for years afterward, including now.  I can tell you today, I should have done it.  The way I know I should have is that I can’t think of a single reason why I shouldn’t have.

I’d be remembering that as my last pilot in command this lifetime, if I’d done it.  And instead of a sense of loss when it sneaks into my head, I’d be remembering those touch and goes in a Cessna 140.

Old Jules

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The importance of being insignificant

N90172a

Hi readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

President Jimmy Carter was scheduled to visit Fort Hood.  The First Cavalry Division [my old unit in Korea] was to stage massive war games and tank maneuvers and culminate the affair with a chemical substitute for a battlefield tactical nuclear weapon.  Because the President was going to be there, FAA closed down the airspace over Fort Hood for civilian air traffic.

Pissed my old buddy Phil Washburn  

Afterlife of One Hero – Sex, Violence and Crazy Love

  and me off something awful.  We were taxpaying citizens.  Who the hell did they think they were telling people they couldn’t fly around not bothering anyone watching how our tax dollars were being spent?

So when the day arrived we gassed up the old Cessna …. 100+ F on the runway, and began the long climb outside the forbidden airspace.  Burned up a lot of avgas and an hour getting up to 8000-9000 MSL.  Clear day though, and the temperature became comfortable somewhere above 5000′.

We circled at the edge of the airspace boundary watching the specks of gathered tanks and massed troops a few miles to the north waiting for the show to start.  Suddenly, hundreds of roostertails of dust obscured miles of landscape as the tanks charged forward.  Then the sky below us filled with helicopters.  Wow!  Wowowowowow!

I gradually eased us north until we were almost over the action, but still far enough south so’s we weren’t trying to see straight down, kept circling.  Powered back enough to hold the altitude, savor the cool, and watch what a major wartime battle must be like viewed from the air.

Finally, toward the north beyond all the tanks the substitute battlefield nuke sent up a heluva pile of smoke and fire into the sky, rising rising rising until we were looking up at the top.  It kept rising.

Turn off the lights.  The party’s over.  The roostertails behind the tanks had all faded, everyone down there was taking a break, having a drink of orange KoolAid or something, we reckoned.  The helicopters were headed away where ever helicopters go when the shooting stops.

Time for us to get-the-hell-out-of-Dodge before the high sheriff and POLice come gunning for us.

I pointed us back toward the Killeen airport and as we neared the edge of forbidden territory I shut down the engine, pulled up the nose to stop the propeller windmilling.  The old Cessna had a 20:1 glide ratio, so we were a long while circling over the airport just listing to the whisper of the wind over the surfaces of the plane.

I’d intended to push the nose down to re-start the engine when I got on final approach, but I’d never landed dead-stick and figured this was as good a time as any to do it.  Got the numbers and came to a dead stop 50 feet beyond them, restarted the engine and taxied over to the FBO under the admiring stares of everyone who never landed an airplane dead stick on a public air strip. 

Naturally we did a lot of bragging at the FBO, and a lot of people were shaking their heads in various attitudes of disapproval, horror, and awe.

Hell of a fine day to be an outlaw.   I recommend it.

Old Jules

Taking Off Downwind

If it hadn’t been for an old friend who was a pilot telling me I could fly an airplane as cheaply as I could spend an hour on the range practicing with a large-bore pistol every week, I’d probably never have thought of doing it.  But something about the idea grabbed me.

I went out to the Killeen, Texas airport and took a few lessons to find out whether flying was one of the adventures I wanted to give myself this lifetime.  Turned out there was no question in the question.

But being a man of ideas, not much time passed before I decided I could buy an old aircraft and save a lot of the cost of renting one while I learned.  A 1947 Cessna was sitting on the strip with a for sale sign on it, that one at the top of the post, so I bought it.

But finding an instructor to teach me to fly a taildragger cut down a lot of my options.  I ended up with a guy named John Rynertson, who introduced himself by saying he was one of the best pilots around.  He owned a Cessna 120, and John taught me enough to get me started.

But we had a falling out, him not soloing me in a timely manner, me thinking he wasn’t doing so because he wanted to maximize the trainer fees.  One day we landed, me thinking this was the day of the solo, and he sneered I wasn’t ready yet.  We were standing by the airplane, so I climbed inside, started the engine and taxied down to the end of the runway, gave myself my first solo flight, illegal.

John and I didn’t have much truck with one another after that.  I flew that old Cessna without having a ticket allowing me to do it, while he flew his C120 up one day and pulled the wings off it in a snap-roll, killing himself exactly the way a man ought to do if he’s going to pull the wings off a Cessna.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d taken off downwind for the first time.  I couldn’t find another instructor, and I was relocating to another town at the time, where nobody knew me.  So for several years I flew that Cessna, 500+ hours flying time, as though I was entirely legal.  Flew out to New Mexico, over to Savanna, Georgia, sleeping under the wing along the way, with no license to pilot an aircraft.

But eventually word got around the Georgetown Municipal Airport and someone cautioned me the FBO was going to rat me out to the FAA.  I decided it was time to complete my training.  Found an old outlaw pilot to sign me off and made an appointment with the FAA examiner in Austin.

When he looked at my log and saw I had 500 hours he shook his head a longish time.  “I’ve been checking out pilots for thirty years.  Before you the one with the most flying hours I’d ever seen was a guy with 100 hours, and he almost killed me during the check ride.  Couldn’t fly an airplane.”

I grinned at him.  “You care to watch me take it around the patch a few times before we do the check ride?  I’ll get the numbers every time around and turn off by the first taxi way.”

We did the check ride and I flew back to Georgetown legal, for the first time.

Almost felt as though I’d lost something.

Old Jules

Today on Ask Old JulesMistakes and Regret? 

Old Jules, what mistakes have you made and regretted?

Previous post about the flying phase: Misplaced Worries

 

Misplaced Worries

Writing an earlier y2k entry got me thinking how often we humans tend to worry about the wrong things.  Reminded me of a guy I used to fly with a bit during the late 1970s named John Rynertson.  John was a man who flew a blue Cessna 120.  It was a lot like the 140 Helldragger I flew (pictured above).  But he was also a man prone to introduce himself to people around the Killeen, Texas airport as “one of the best pilots around”.

Naturally there were those who didn’t favor his self-introductions involving pilot skills.

John wasn’t a man who could claim a lot of friends.  But he did have a wife almost as desirable as that 120 he flew.  So pretty, she was, that whenever he wasn’t flying, John was worrying about her.  He fretted over what she might be doing when he was off flying, or when he was almost anywhere he couldn’t keep an eye on her.  Which was a good bit of the time.  Old John just worried himself silly about that woman.

Then one day he was flying with some warrant officer from Fort Hood and managed to get more airspeed than that old airframe was willing to put up with.  The 120 wasn’t rated for snap rolls.  But being one of the best pilots around, John just naturally figured they weren’t referring to him when they rated the airplane.  Wings came spang off that mama at about 3,000 feet above the ground.

Turned out John didn’t need to be worrying about what his wife was doing.  If he was going to worry, he needed to be focusing on learning to stay alive and fly at the same time.

Whatever his wife might or mightn’t have been doing while he was alive, she certainly did it after he was grease scattered over an acre of ground.

Similarly, I recall all those kids who used to spend all their time worrying about getting drafted for Vietnam, then overdosed on something and ended up corpses right here in the good old US of A with never having been fired at in anger.

A person needs to use a lot of care, consult an internal map, look at the compass and GPS, picking things to be worried about.  Otherwise he’ll spend all his time worrying about things that don’t happen while the things that do sneak up behind him and tap him above the ear with a ball-peen hammer.
Old Jules

Nat Shilkret & The Victor Orchestra – Lucky Lindy
http://youtu.be/kflQSovXfw0