By lex, on September 28th, 2009
I have told my sometime employers of an aversion to flying on Sunday, maintaining as I do certain anachronistic delicacies on the article of keeping the Sabbath. Yet we had three flights this weekend, and all of them on a Sunday, those that pay having a majority vote in the flight schedule. These flights are but toyish things to me, but they put the bread on my employers’ table so – keeping in mind the parable of the donkey in the neighbor’s well – flying we went.
Hot and dry, with a comfortable looking marine layer over the coast from Point Loma all the way to Dana Point it seemed. With no reference to the ground, it would be difficult to marshal ourselves for the intercept, not to mention keeping out of the o’er topping Class B airspace. If you can’t keep the Sabbath holy, you should at least try to stay in the good graces of the FAA. If you want to keep your license. So having given the cooler coastal route the good old college try, we navigated inland to operate between Black Mountain and Lake Hodges.
Three flights, three briefs. Earl the Pearl gave the first to a couple of fellers from up Carlsbad way, mine a nice young sport with a quarter share in a Cessna 172 up at Palomar and his own shiny Bose X headset over which I drooled, a little. Thinking that when the time comes and I’ve got the scratch, I may go with the Lightspeed Zulus instead. (And belated props to an occasional reader who dropped a tip in the jar earmarked for that purpose, the last time I mentioned headsets.)
He’d a private license and a marked aversion to steep turns, 45 degrees angle of bank being the limit generally taught in the general aviation world. Putting on 2-3 g’s at 60 degrees angle of bank was as foreign to him as Pathan wedding rites are to me, and he insisted that we must necessarily stall and spin. Stuff and nonsense, said I, for I have both stalled and spun but never in a Varga Kachina and anyway it’s harder than it looks.
I always put non-flyers through a very gentle power-off stall to show them the docile habits of the Hershey Bar wings on the Varga. It’s like driving over a cattle guard, I’ll say – often to a blank faced reception from both-feet-on-the-ground city dwellers who have neither broken the surly bonds of earth nor driven over a cattle guard. Even the word “stall” seems to evoke within some of them a hidden dread, for reasons I can no longer comprehend if ever I did. Probably having to do with the storied fate of some benighted heathen who let the airspeed get away from him on final approach in the landing pattern. On Sunday.
But to stall is not necessarily to plummet from the sky, it is only to disrupt the smooth flow of air over the wing. You’re still flying – even turning – when stalled. Just not very efficiently. And it’s a trivial thing to recover from, so long as you’ve got a bit of altitude and the least presence of mind to use it.
Our second pair were from Topeka, Kansas, a nice young man and his nice young bride of not quite 24 hours. They’d only flown in from Topeka that morning, and this was to be her third flight. Ever. The flight from Kansas having been her second. He was all flashing smiles and reassurances, herself steadfastly attempting to be reassured, but it was clear to me that there was a mismatch in expectations between the young man and his tender belle.
I told him that she obviously cared for him, facing as she was this strange and dreadful thing with such obvious trepidation, and that maybe he’d owe her something nice when it was over. He pointed to the not insubstantial rock newly ringing the fourth digit of her left hand and intimated that she’d already gotten her pay-off.
Really, I almost pitied him at that moment. So very much to learn.
I should have saved my pity for a little longer, because an hour later she sat back on the couch in the briefing room, flushed, sweating profusely and trembling in every limb, inconsolable.
Thought to myself: Welcome to the life, my son, and you never really get done paying for that ring.
The third pair were a young couple from the local USAF ROTC unit, hizzoner at UCSD and herself at USD. When she walked in on crutches a wee slip of a thing, I thought to myself, no. This will never do. But she was insistent, it was nothing and anyway wasn’t it I that’d be on the rudder pedals?
An hour or so later I came to believe that she must have broken her foot in an ass-kicking contest, because she’d taken her young beau to the wood shed. Not much to say but that she’d had a good time, but there was a look of grim satisfaction on her face and a fey light in her eye that I recognized.
Are you sure, I asked, that we cannot talk you into naval aviation?