The Places You'll Go
Baron - 4
Baron - 3
Baron - 2
Baron - 1
the Cassutt - 2
Up in WV
Rico - 2
on the Roof
unsure of your aircraft's attitude is one of the most stressful
situations that one can encounter in an airplane. Whether the
occasion is due to failure of the aircraft's instruments to
accurately give situational information or due to your own false
sensations, it gets one's immediate attention.
been lucky in my flying with only two occasions when I wasn't
sure exactly what the aircraft was doing. The first time was
during a night approach to a mountain airport, done very early
in my instrument flying career. At a critical moment on that
flight, every nerve and sensation in my body screamed that the
Grumman I was flying had decided to finish the approach while
lying on it's right side. Only the stern words of my instrument
instructor echoing in my head saved me. "This will happen
and when it does, ignore everything else and believe your
instruments!". I did that and soon the airplane returned to
flying with the right side up.
The second time was in
a Cessna 421 in CAVU conditions, believe it or not. I was at
fifteen thousand feet and had caught a tremendous mountain wave
that pegged the rate of climb indicator while the nose was
pointed down. It was brief and not a safety concern, but I
thought the momentary disorientation was interesting.
last experience and the subject of this story, was recently
while operating a Massy Fergerson 340. To save you reaching for
your copy of 'Jane's All The World Aircraft', let me point out
that this is a farm tractor, not an airplane. Let me explain.
My daughter, the one who argues like a Connecticut
lawyer because that's what she is, called me this spring just
before I left California for West Virginia, to tell me that she
had received a quote of 'about twenty grand' to remove the dead
and dying diseased spruce on her property in Northwest
Connecticut. She asked, "did I have any ideas?". Well
I did of course, given the fact that thirty odd years ago I had,
with the help of a friend, logged the timber from my land hat I
needed to build a house. And she was my little girl after all,
and this was something I could do to help her.
within about a week of arriving with the fifth wheel at my West
Virginia place, I hooked the flat bed trailer to the Ford,
loaded my trusty farm tractor and all my long unused logging
tools and drove the 550 miles to Stephanie's house.
my opinion the Blue Spruce is one of the prettiest evergreens
you will see when healthy, but their disease and death at my
daughter's formally bucolic home had left it looking like the
back side of the moon. Surveying the property I found there were
about twenty of the distressed trees, measuring from forty to
sixty feet in height.
So for the next three months my
days consisted of working at the aircraft business via the
computer and the phone during the mornings and spending
afternoons in the trees with the chain saw and the tractor. I
felled the trees, then reduced them to pieces small enough to
move with the tractor and bucket to an area that I had cleared
deep in the property's woods.
At last the trees were
down, the ground cleaned up, and down in the woods the 'Creature
Condo' built of tree parts had grown to the size of a small
house. It was time to load up and head back to West Virginia.
Early next morning I once again hitched the trailer to
the Ford and began backing the tractor up the ramps and onto the
flat bed. The morning's dew on the ramps combined with the
uphill incline where the trailer was parked caused he tractor
wheels to spin and it refused to back onto the trailer. My
solution was to turn the truck and trailer around and move it to
over to a graveled road which ran steeply down a grade, thereby
easily backing the tractor onto the trailer while the truck and
trailer faced down the hill.
My excellent idea worked
well, and with the help of the grade the tractor backed easily
up the ramps and onto the very end of the 24 foot trailer. Just
as I was congratulating myself for my solution to the loading
problem, something began to feel vaguely wrong. I struggled for
a moment to put my finger on exactly what it was, but now in the
periphery of my vision I noticed that the trees along the road
beside me seemed to be - well, moving. My mind rejected that
idea as impossible and quickly cast about for another reason for
this. When nothing was forthcoming quickly, I turned my head
enough to see that it wasn't the trees, that were moving, but
instead it was me on the tractor that rested on the trailer
which was hooked to the truck, and we were all moving hell for
leather down the hill, me facing backwards.
coming to terms with this sad fact, my next thought was that I
had forgotten to put the truck in park. As confusion reigned and
my synapses fired like Gatling Guns in a vain attempt to catch
up with what was occurring, the little recorder in my head that
notes such things without conscience effort was running. When I
later replayed the incident I found that during our wild ride
down the gravel road I had been peering over my right shoulder
at the runaway truck while stomping with all my strength on the
immobile tractor's brakes and twisting it's steering wheel in a
vain attempt to steer the truck located some 25 feet to my rear.
The whole affair ended as the road leveled out and the
truck left the road and nosed into the woods just as it was
about to stop. The trailer had jackknifed into the rear fender
of the truck and there was a small dent, but no other damage to
the equipment. Other than my pride, I was unscathed.
NTSB (Neighborhood Transgression Scrutinizing Board) concluded
the cause of the incident was operator error. Due to the gravel
and the grade, the transfer of weight caused by the tractor
pushing down on the rear of the trailer subsequently caused the
front of the trailer to take the weight from the rear truck
wheels via the trailer hitch, to the point where they slid on
the gravel. The duly chastened operator completed the trip to
West Virginia without further incident.