By lex, on October 31st, 2009
Off relatively early for to travel to Gillespie Airfield in East County, just for the trek of it. A lady there having a 1971 Cessna 177RG Cardinal all broke down for annual inspection, and kindly offering her services through the CFO organization to let us peek under the hood like. See where the pixies live.
I’ve no aversion to systems knowledge and line diagrams per se, and am full well willing to do it the diligent on plane operator handbooks. It’s just that, in a relatively simple “complex” aircraft like the Cardinal, there are very few things that can go wrong in flight which one can meaningfully intervene in. There’s always the odds of mere piloting buffoonery, such as failure to maintain safe flying speed, running out of fuel or neglecting to lower the rollers, but I’d have no one to blame for that but myself. For mechanical failures, the emergency checklist is mercifully abbreviated: If the only engine catches fire, then off goes the fuel selector, the spinner stops and you may prepare for your “off airport landing”, which is the optimistic euphemism in use for a controlled crash somewhere within the glide arc. If the spinner stops of its own accord, good luck getting her going again. Off airport landing to follow. If the prop fails, it’s probably due to an oil leak, and it uses engine oil, so after an interval of bone jarring vibrations as the prop tears herself to shreds the engine stops and, well: You get the picture. If the landing gear decide to play the fool and fail to come locked, you may pump a while at the emergency handle and hope for the best. That failing, it’s an “on airfield” landing that will all too likely end poorly.
The long and short of it is that there are very simple failure modes which are both irrecoverable and inaccessible from the cockpit. I prefer to believe in pixies behind the firewall, and below the floorboards. Kindly beings who keep the engine stoked, the spinner turning and the rollers in their proper places, up or down as commanded. Souls that can be propitiated. Opening her up and looking inside only reveals the machinery, not the ghost in the machine.
I’m all about the ghosts.
Herself also is the proud owner of a new (to her) Steen Skybolt, and you’d have laughed to see me try and feign insouciance. Oh, an aerobatic, open cockpit taildragger? Hum. You see them everywhere.
A brief stop, having missed breakfast, at a local hole in the wall for a bacon, egg and cheese burrito with salsa. If only for the nourishment that was in it. Was fashed nearly to tears to discover after arriving at Montgomery Field that the cooks had unilaterally decided that a bean and cheese burrito was more nearly the thing, the obdurate, contumelious b*stards. After that, ’twas a solitary dogfighting hop with a nearly monoglot Guatemalan plastic surgeon and his brother. The former flew quite well, considering he’d prolly caught no more than one word in three of my preflight brief, and something less than that once airborne.
It was a perfect day to fly, really. The sky an inverted blue bowl wholly innocent of clouds, ignorant of the very notion of clouds. The winds gently down the runway, the ocean flat, arrayed in orderly ranks of white, green and blue starting from the beach and heading to sea. One hundred miles of visibility.
What with other things in the way, I’ve flown too little in recent weeks. Tomorrow I hope to head up to Warner Springs in a Beech Debonair and then maybe do a bit of soaring.
That should charge me right back up.