By lex, on November 8th, 2009
Yestiddy was two flights down at Montgomery, dogfights the pair. In the mighty Varga Kachina, 1200 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal. The weather but indifferently suited to our needs, a heavy marine layer – not to be confused with the overweight occupant of some Oceanside trailer park – blanketing the coastline. Instead we worked our way north, o’er the top of a quiescent Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (snatched as it was from the Navy, several years back) to a holler between Black Mountain and Lake Hodges.
Our first sports were a retired Marine colonel that had started flying back in the 50′s and hung up his spurs in the FA-18, having seen many a wondrous thing over the course of his years, including the sound and fury of 37mm cannon fire going over his canopy. The which, he stated – and I’ve no cause to disbelieve him – is something of an attention getter. His partner of the day a commercial fishing boat captain and all-around good fellah.
Which of the two came back victorious, and which a little green under the gills is an exercise left to the discerning reader. In terms of gratuity for services rendered, the colonel – who has his own company up in San Clemente integrating various kinds of weapons and sensors into UAVs – left no money. But
he promised me that on my deathbed, I would receive total consciousness gave me his card and asked me if I’d like to come work for him as a systems engineer.
So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. Or would be, were not our feet nailed down to Sandy Eggo for the next cuppla. Still, it’s amazing the people you meet.
The second pair a husband and wife team from San Antonio, hizzoner here on a conference and herself his happy escort of some 30-odd summers. I flew with the lady, who dabbled a bit with the control stick, told me that this vaulting the footless halls of air was all very well and good as far as it went, but would I mind flying at all?
Did she want to win, I asked, or let her man come home bewreathed with laurels, and such?
She wanted to win, or at least she did for the first hack, and so we promptly did. On the second she asked that I give her man a turn at offensive maneuvering, while making him work for it and so on. Which was harder than you would have thought, even with the power pulled back to 2000 RPM, scribing circles so lazy that the MTV generation would have chided us. We labored to lose the third fight as well, with the fact of my being the pilot with duties in actual control of aircraft – DIACA, in the naval argo – our little secret. On and on it went, swirling in our separate arcs to no real advantage until I was convinced that hizzoner was as committed to losing as was my own passenger, each of them having that “better to give than to receive” thing in their hearts. Out of mere boredom, and a concern for fuel remaining on board I put us all out of our miseries, himself going first. Only to find that she had dimed us out after climbing out of the plane. To assuage his ego, like.
Now that’s partnership, for you.
From thence to Gillespie Field in the vast, uncivilized pale of East County for to go for a flight in a 1971 Cardinal 177RG belonging to a person of my recent acquaintance. We flew her Cardinal – but recently reassembled from an annual inspection – all the way down to Brown Field some 15 miles away, if only for the cheaper fuel that was in it – $3.98 vs. $4.62 at Gillespie. Which, for thirty gallons seemed to me but indifferent economy given the requirement for the prudent aircraft owner to reserve around $30 per hour for the inevitable engine overhaul. Unless it’s really just a reason to go flying, in which case, fine, to Brown we go. But it’s her own airplane and her own money, and she treats the both of them like they were precious. In consequence of which, no doubt, she owns not one but two aircraft, the other being the Steen Skybolt I previously mentioned in these pages that has me pondering the benefits of pancake make-up to cover up the green of my envy, not to mention the wisdom of flying club aircraft that any beetlebrowed plumber with the scratch is free to abuse as he sees fit.
In such small ways do we talk ourselves into aircraft ownership. Eventually.
Hopefully before the medical runs out.
Whilst down at Brown, a Vans RV-7 beat us to the self-serve, seemingly well-constructed, beautifully painted and with glass panels left and right. The only steam gauge in the vessel was an airspeed indicator. Now, charmed as I am by the growing tendency to equip aircraft with glass cockpits, yet did I ponder the confidence that such a lay-out bespoke in the Wonders of Modern Technology. Lacking as it did any class of back up attitude indicator. Electrical malfunctions, like others, being customarily enslaved to the immutable Laws of Murphy.
You’d be in a pretty fix, thought I, when the power gave out on a dark night or in hard IFR, with nothing but an airspeed indicator. Still, vacuum pumps fail too, and when he took off, it was with a breathtaking climb angle, what with 200HP in a wee, little craft.
Back to Gillespie as the light was dying, an ugly haze all but obscuring the local landmarks. My new friend’s Cardinal was equipped with a Garmin 430 that not only simplified the work of operating the various radio frequencies and navaids, but also provided an austere, but usable GPS-aided moving map that got us back to the field before the sun was quite down, preventing us from experiencing the Horrible Perils of Night Flying, what with the diminished lift that’s in it.
After a beer in the hangar with herself and another Cardinal owner who’d spent the day fabricating an air box, talking about airplanes and people we used to know – turned out that as Center for Naval Analysis analyst she had cruised for a short time with your host aboard the USS Independence, that great, rough beast – it was back to Chéz Lex.
From whence, in a short while, I am back thither, for to take another crack at conventional landing gear aviation, this time in a 150HP Citabria, the old Champ that had given us such a pranging back in February having in the intervening months given up the ghost to the inevitable ravages of time, not to mention a nasty ground loop at some other intrepid aviator’s hands of stone.
Wish us luck, the three of us: Me, my instructor and the poor, unsuspecting Citabria.