Want to Fly for Pay?
Originally published August 14th, 2009.
Years ago (my father sold this business in the late 70s) – he owned a franchise that did books for service stations. He also sold insurance to these small business owners. One of them, in Fresno CA (big ag country) did crop dusting on the side. Les probably wrote of this experience while living in Lemoore, just down the road.
My father had a big insurance claim when he hit a power line, their big nemisis. I think he lived but he was horribly burned.
But to watch them at work – I can see them off I5 in the spring – is like an aerial ballet.
Years ago a student solo pilot in my T34 class out of Saufley Field (the old recip jobs, not those fancy turboprop toys of today) had an engine failure after takeoff. The student promptly turned right around and landed in the opposite direction on the same runway runway he used for takeoff. Did a nice job, rolled to a stop and called for a tow back to the ramp.
The ops officer wanted to crucify the lad. He had violated the single engine airplane gospel: when the engine fails immediately after takeoff, land straight ahead.
A board was convened to deal with the lad’s failure to adhere to the gospel.
Turns out that the student pilot in question was a crop duster for several years before entering the Naval flight program. When the engine on his T34 quit he simply did a hammerhead stall to reverse course and land.
“A HAMMERHEAD STALL?”, a board member remarked.
“Just how many hammerhead stalls have you ever successfully accomplished?”
(I have to interject here that very few, if any, of the students on base had the remotest idea what a hammerhead stall was).
The student answered, “Oh, maybe 2, 3, 4 thousand or so. Did one at the end of every row when cropdustin’.”
The board returned the lad to continue his training….
Busbob – I am thinking about this during lunch – and to think the guy saves himself and his plane from any arm – but doing it in a non-proscribed manner – I can sorta understand the Navy’s reaction – and I can’t.
If he had slid it into a golf course with unforeseen consequences that would have been OK
I will have to look up hammerhead stall – although after your description that is exactly what they do when finished with one row and go the other way down the next row…
Crop Dusters (call them ag pilots! ) and bush pilots are among the best I think …
The Navy’s point in all this was that the fellow did not do as he was trained. Turning back toward the runway after the one and only engine quits right after takeoff generally has a fatal outcome.
I’m sure if there were a second event somewhere down the line during this pilot’s training where he did not perform as the Navy taught him, no amount of ‘splaining would suffice. He’d be looking to get his crop dusting gig back.
I saw that I commented on Lex’s original post back in 2009. My crop duster pilot friend has passed on to his eternal reward.
But seeing that post from 2009 reminds me of just how much I miss my daily “fresh Lex fix”. A wonderful writer, and a wonderful man. I don’t doubt that he was an outstanding officer and that his men would follow him anywhere. Not a bad husband either from his writings and about as successful a father as he could be–although there were some stones in the road along the way.
Amen, Mike, re Lex as a person & officer. And I always love stories about crop-dusters for the reason my comments to the original post indicated. The guy (my 1st IP) taught me the Hammerhead right out of the box, and that maneuver stood me in good stead years later in O-1s in Vietnam..
I got my medical today next I am looking to go back to Airtankers i will know soon…Flying for Pay….
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