The Places You'll Go
Kill Cats, Don't They?
Baron - 4
Baron - 3
Baron - 2
Baron - 1
the Cassutt - 2
Up in WV
Rico - 2
on the Roof
Humor Stalks the Skies
admit it, during the years that I was instructing, as much as I
loved to fly and to teach flying there were times that I needed
a break. The years that I was running the little country flight
school in the late sixties and teaching eight to ten hours a day
for weeks without a break, I sometimes longed for a change of
pace. It was hard, unrelenting work.
But the schedule
of the flight school dictated the hours that we flew and in
summer we tried to take advantage of the long days. We harvested
every hour that we could to help us stand against the long, dark
winter that was to follow, and summer days when I could just
relax were few.
So, sometimes just I did dumb things
that amused me, just to break up the routine a bit. It was
nothing that I could go on the road with, but those incidents
served to give me chuckles and most of the time they gave them
to the whole airport.
I recall one example of my
misplaced humor when on a student's first lesson, for no reason
at all I changed some aircraft nomenclature. I had probably
walked five new students that day through the same lesson and
had faithfully started their introduction to the airplane with a
detailed walk around, examining and naming each important part
of the machine and discussing its function. With this
unfortunate student though, when I came to the elevators I
suddenly decided they should be called 'flippers' and I somberly
pronounced them so to my attentive pupil.
He had a
good memory for all the parts that we covered on the preflight
and for the next couple of weeks I got to hear him trying to
convince other students that what they were calling elevators
were actually flippers. He knew it for sure, because his
instructor had told him so. It wasn't a day at the beach, but it
seemed to entertain me at the time.
Then there was the
night I was flying in the inky darkness with an advanced student
in the Grumman Trainer. I had flown this area so often that even
at night I could recognize my location by the lights on the
ground and I noticed that we were coming up on the town of
Weston and the Jackson's Mill Airport. I suddenly remembered
reading about the unicom activated runway light system that had
just been installed at that airport and I decided to try it out.
Before I could do so though, another, much more evil thought
occurred to me.
The radio was already tuned to the
intercom frequency and in the Grumman the mike was located on
the consol between the seats, right under my hand, as a matter
of fact. I directed my student to start a slow left turn which
would have us circling over the airport and proceeded to
describe to him, the amazing invention that the FAA was testing
at this very airport.
It was, I said, a voice
activated runway light system which was designed to pick up a
human voice coming from above. It was so sensitive it could pick
up a voice from inside an airplane a thousand feet above,
separate it from the noise of the airplane and use it to trigger
the runway lights. Would he like to try it?
lights of the instrument panel he gave a nod and asked me how to
do it. It was as simple I said, as just saying 'lights on' in a
loud voice when overhead the runway. He seemed reluctant to do
this at first, but after the first muttered command I urged him
to say it louder, then louder still. On the fourth try he was
screaming 'LIGHTS ON' at the top of his lungs and I could see
the veins on his neck standing out. At that point I clicked the
mike four time and the lights magically appeared out of the
darkness and there was a runway beneath us where only darkness
had existed a moment before. I glanced at my stunned student and
heard him mutter an amazed 'Damn!'.
For about two
weeks I let him tell everyone he ever knew about the new
invention that he got to try out over at the Weston airport, and
then I told him what I had done.
And then there were
the solos. We had incorporated an addendum to the time honored
tradition of cutting shirt tails after a first solo flight, by
christening the surprised fledgling with a bucket of water. I
remembered from my own solo, when they could have tarred and
feathered me and ridden me down the runway on a rail and it
wouldn't have diminished my happiness, so I wasn't worried about
the impromptu bath upsetting the new birdmen and women.
the word did get around among the students and the new solos
became ever more cagy to avoid the soaking. One exited the
airplane and ran to the middle of the hangar wall to have his
shirttail cut, where he had a clear view in three directions and
the hangar to his back. Barbara, my girlfriend and airport Girl
Friday was in charge of the scissors and she duly sheared off
the shirt, then took two steps back in order to avoid a soaking.
Our mechanic Glenn, a smile stretching from ear to ear, then
dumped the bucket of water on him from the hangar roof.
solo ran directly from the airplane into the office where a
smiling Barbara congratulated him on his solo, then raised the
garden hose she had been holding below the counter and
thoroughly fireproofed the astonished young man.
recognize that the halcyon days of our youth improve with the
sepia tones of time. I can't quite remember the feel of the bone
deep weariness that I must have felt at times, or the
discouragement that must have overcome me at some places. But I
have no difficulty at all reliving the laughter and the
camaraderie that we shared at that magic time.