By lex, on May 1st, 2010
It’s been dern hectic at work and at home over the last several. As is the custom, I arise fairly early, quick scan the headlines and throw something up in this space to keep the plates spinning ’til I get home around supper time. A wee bit of a promotion at work added some overhead to the daily routine, that and the two new hats I’m wearing. Finally found a candidate to wear the old one though, so hopefully things will become a bit more sane in the not too distant.
Burdens too on the domestic side, if only at a distance. Son Number One has been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster down in Pensacola. He successfully vaulted the first of many hurdles months ago, the grueling physical examination given by the Naval Aero-Medical Institute – NAMI – back in November. The “NAMI Whammy” has broken many a young man’s heart, for while it is the duty of the squadron flight surgeon to keep you flying safely if every you might, NAMI’s purpose – or at least it seems that way – is to do their best to ensure that you never come near a set of flight controls, if ever a reason can be found. Your squadron flight doc supports – NAMI screens.
So, although there were still weeks of waiting around before starting ground school life was looking good. Until an old high school chum from Ireland showed up and they did what young men of that age that’ve grown up together since striplings will do and had a bit of a wrestle. Nothing more than a rug burn to it usually, but this time your man caught a knee to the eye and blew out an orbital socket. Which isn’t nothing.
Surgery was called for of a rather invasive type. Senior medical officers did the deed and pronounced themselves satisfied, but there might be some scar tissue and double vision. Which, if that didn’t clear would of course be cause for permanent grounding. It’s been a rough few months of waiting for things to get better, but finally they did and not a moment too late. Those with whom he had been waiting were finishing Initial Flight Screening with civilian instructors in Cessna 172s and starting Aviation Pre-flight Indoctrination: Ground school, t’other end of which awaits an actual T-34C or T-6A, and many other hurdles.
Having finally gotten the permission from the eye docs to continue in training, he went for to get his up chit. Sadly, the medical record itself found itself back in the hands of an eager beaver back at NAMI vice the squadron doc. Who proceeded not to sign the up chit but rather take it upon herself to scrupulously comb through the entirety of his already approved medical record. Just in case something potentially disqualifying could be found. Something was, apparently: One wave on an EKG that exceeded some limit.
Now, my EKGs routinely had machine generated deviations that were routinely disregarded by the flight surgeons. I never did get through an EKG without an annotation of “marked sinus bradycardia,” which I understand to mean “slow heartbeat.” I was something of an athlete, back in the day. There was also summat in there about “early repolarization and tall t-waves” which no one ever could successfully explain. Neither could my son’s current physician, being no class of internal medicine expert. Best to go another round, yes?
And so he did, and the EKG was solidly in the green in all indexes. Off we go?
No. NAMI’s job is not to get you flying. NAMI’s job is to prevent you from doing so. Stress tests are now scheduled, as though the poor lad has not had enough stress what with the wholeness of it. It’s his burden, not mine. But I suffer alongside of him for this has been a long-cherished dream and now things tremble in the balance.
My beautiful, artistic, complicated eldest daughter is still shivering up at Portland State and doing well at school while apparently enjoying all the city has to offer. I can presume this by the way she blows through her biweekly allowance payments. The bohemian child who would look me in the eye when I would remonstrate with her about her study habits and tell me that it didn’t matter, daddy: she didn’t need to make a lot of money or live in a big house now spends like a drunken sailor on liberty in the first few days after the money arrives. Within a week it will be gone and shortly after that I will receive a phone call asking me how I’ve been and whether funds could not be provided for one or another class of unforeseeable emergencies that inevitably arrive. One of these months I will say “no.”
Youngest daughter turns 16 next month, and she has the high beauty and flashing temperament of an Irish princess – I blame my dear, sainted mother for it now that she is safely out of striking range. There is every expectation of a car within this milestone, not to mention all the other emotional swings that come with middle adolescence. We have been grudgingly talked down from our inflated expectations. Grudgingly, I say, for last night came acceptance but only after this exchange: “This is what I can afford to spend, but if it does not make you happy then I will not spend it, for I will not willingly take on debt to make you unhappy. Otherwise, go forth and purchase for yourself whatever it is that you can afford that will please you.”
Looks like we’re getting a Jetta.
We are also trying to frame the current crushing burden of debt for sale, it having echoing empty chambers that see no use in these our reduced numbers. For to purchase an ever-so-slightly less crushing burden of debt, or at least one which allows us some breathing room with recaptured equity. We are discovering that it is nearly as expensive to sell a house as it is to buy one. Realtors in particular are quite happy to spend your money for you in favor of a quick sale. For there are so many houses to sell, and it doesn’t do to dwell on any one of them.
I am, at least, still happily married. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.
And I have an Airline Transport Pilot’s certificate with a tailwheel endorsement in my log book. Which is not nicer, precisely. But which is pretty damn fine, if you can make the time to exercise the privileges. Yesterday I did.
Citabria 8643 is not a new airplane by any stretch. She bears no bells or whistles, and the signs of many thousands of hours of hard use show plain at close hand. We are, in this manner, something of a perfect match. She started on the third blade, and I have now become comfortable taxiing her around the field using a combination of rudder and heel brakes. Took off with 15 knots of breeze more or less right down the runway, she sprung into the air and we performed a downwind departure east from Gillespie Field towards El Capitan and the reservoir. A bit of mild maneuvering that could almost be described as “aerobatic” followed, which increasing familiarity with the machine’s flight characteristics have rendered into something approaching harmony between it and myself. We’re of an age where we have few surprises left for those who treat us fairly.
Four perfectly acceptable stall landings up at Ramona, followed by a very nice wheel landing. I’m relatively new at this, and it’s been a while, so my performance thus far had been a pleasant surprise. Brought her in a little hot on the second wheel landing and “bounced” rather than “skipped” the main mounts. I made a half-hearted attempt to lift the tail and she answered with a series of small protests around her pitch axis whose oscillations threatened to grow rather than otherwise. This was the sort of thing that used to agitate me when I was making my transition, but yesterday I accepted defeat by hauling aft on the stick, keeping the rudder pedals alive and waiting patiently for her to accept the landing. You can never turn a stall landing into a wheelie, but a botched wheelie can often be turned into an acceptable stall landing even if it’s not the kind of thing you write home about. I paid a bit more attention on the next two wheelies and planted the last one back at Gillespie.
It was an hour and a bit spent thinking about nothing other than flying that machine.
Time and money well spent.