By lex, on March 3rd, 2008
Only had one flight on Saturday, and that was a near-run thing. There was a low overcast over the field, and right around 5 miles visibility – pretty close to personal minimums for SoCal operations, especially in the VFR-only Vargas. Your correspondent and his co-worker surveyed the skies with pursed lips for several minutes before dialing up the local weather service: 2400 overcast. It’d do.
Your man was driven down from Riverside for his birthday, his wife and 20ish daughters having bought him a go-fly ticket. No other paying passengers having presented themselves, I was on my way to dead-heading it as the target, or failing that flying one of the ground personnel that works for the firm in the trunk. But himself offered our paying customer’s wife the ride for a nominal fee, and she was courage personified, opting to strap right in with God-knows-who that feller is in the front. Sure, she was trepidated, but I re-assured her that it was in my best interest to bring the both of us back successfully and that if she stayed with me everything ought to work out for the best.
Kick the tires and light the fires, and off we pooted to the operating area. I knew it might be a problem when she asked if the bars holding my seat to the bulkhead wouldn’t make a perfect place to grip with white-knuckled intensity.
Came time for her to get comfortable with flying the machine she turned as eagerly as your next man into a 45 degree angle of bank turn. That takes a bit of back stick to keep the nose from falling through, which lesson she quickly apprised. On the reversal from a left turn to a right though, she neglected to reduce the back stick pressure, causing the aircraft’s nose to climb well above the horizon. Before I could talk her through lowering the nose back to the horizon the stall horn had gone off and we had a wee bit of a stall break, causing me to ask for the controls again.
“Ooh!” she said, and the machine was mine to fly from that moment thereafter. Nothing I could say to talk her out of it.
We toodled around for another few minutes while her man got comfortable in his machine. Talking about the weather in general terms. Which truth be told, really wasn’t all that nice. A gray sky against a gray sea, the line between indistinct, faded, overlapping. What we’d have called a “varsity” day, back in the day – hard to tell up from down.
We got it done when all was said and done, and she held on gamely back in the trunk. Even though I could tell we were up against the stops there, towards the end. I took the lead and headed back to the field, my passenger struggling mightily to maintain her composure, not to mention breakfast. Which is when a Cessna reported a seven mile ILS final, and tower told us to “keep it tight.” From the initial to landing was a continuous, 450 degree turn to a very short final, losing 1500 feet through a descending, skidded turn to short final. To keep the airspeed down. Fun for half of us.
Herself was pleased as punch to be back on terra firma. Opened the canopy ret quick to for to let the breeze blow over. Thinking that best.
A wee bit green at the gills upon clambering out. The daughters laughing and himself inordinately pleased, having won two out of three hacks. Which he was paying for it, wasn’t he?
She had a glass or two of water once we’d hangared the planes. Sat down heavily. Said that it was getting worse rather than better over time, against all sense of truth, justice and the American way. Cheer up, said I, and look at the horizon. Think of the flag.
They left three quarters happy and one quarter unsteady on the pins. A couple of minutes later your man came running back into the hangar, asking for a spare air sickness bag. For the ride home. In the car.
I felt a little guilty about the whole thing truth be told. Not that I’d done anything a-purpose, like. But still, that’s two weeks in a row.
Best not to make a habit out of it.