Round Up

By lex, on January 3rd, 2011

Two out of three pax got sick on me yesterday, and I was beginning to fret. As was, one presumes, my weekend employer. Who stands to gain no word of mouth when that selfsame mouth has been wracked with expectorant contortions.

Firstus was a husband and wife team, herself a comely and voluble internal specialist veterinarian. Which I guess I thought they all were, not knowing that veterinarians had specialties, like. Hizzoner was very nearly a mute, confining his responses to monosyllables. I was left to wonder – not for the first time – about the strange vagaries in life that throw two people on the same boat.

He was a big feller too, and I’ve noticed a certain trend among the retired policemen, firefighters, building contractors and the like, once they’ve gained a certain avoirdupois: They often get sick.

I have no overarching theory as to why this should be true. I only make the observation.

The second group were a pair of tubular youths from the Great White Up, come hither for to escape the brutal weather with their parental units, and this was their last full day in Sandy Eggo. They were from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada their mother explained with fearsome, dactylic precision.

The weather was starting to close in from the north, and gray clouds merged with a gray sea in such a way as to render the horizon ambiguous. The young man in my plane had seen quite enough by his third low yo-yo, and gave up the lunchtime ghost. Characteristically, he apologized for having done so.

Finally a young sailor from the pre-commissioning unit USS San Diego, LPD-22. And his cousin. Along with a seeming cast of thousands, uncles, cousins, sisters and the like.

The weather was moving in from the northwest, pushing us further to the east and eventually over the rising terrain surrounding the Barona Casino. When I gave him control of the aircraft, the sailor gave a tentative turn or two before wrapping the beast up into a 90 degree angle of bank turn at a good 3 g’s. I teased him back within limits, and took a look into the back cockpit to see him grinning with delight. He’d do, I thought to myself. And he did.

The rain chased us home, and it was right glad I was to put the airplane to bed before it fully arrived, for the Vargas are nothing like suitable for instrument flight.

So, on Saturday I got checked out in that Cessna 182 retractable. The one I was telling you about, with the Aspen PFD, Garmin 530W and S-Tec autopilot. My check pilot was a retired Southwest guy who was all about the systems, and in fact our flight – which lasted 1.3 hours – was almost entirely spent on the autopilot. I hit heading hold at 400 feet after take-off – quickly followed by GPS steering and approach mode – and only took physical command of the aircraft with my mitts on the ILS full stop back at Montgomery more than an hour later. Busier than a one armed paper hanger the whole way, mashing buttons, whirling heading bugs around, entering target altitudes and commanded rates of descent. It was… instructional. And once you’d gotten the swing of it, I reckon that the systems could stand you in good stead in hard IFR, reducing the pilot workload. I’ll give you that. But it kind of made me glad I didn’t go the airline route after I retired, for I understand that’s mostly what they do as well. Manual take-off, manual landing, autopilot everything other.

And it also made me appreciate that worn out Citabria over there at Gillespie a little more. The taildragger with no frills, not even a directional gyro, nobbut a wet compass.The one laughs and skips and tosses you fiery looks over her shoulder. The other’s just business.

Later that day, having been given the keys and a logbook endorsement, I flew that nice couple of a certain age and their three dogs over to Catalina for the week, sharing expenses, like. Which doesn’t quite cover the cost, and certainly not the check-out, but anyway. Whistling along at about 160 knots groundspeed, we made the trip in 45 minutes or so, and they seemed fairly impressed with the machine’s celerity.

160 knots was nose-wheel lift-off speed in the FA-18.

This is just a bookmark, like. For me. Now off to something (potentially) meaningful.


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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Lex, Neptunus Lex

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