LOINED ABOUT FLYING FROM DAT"
- a takeoff
on "I learned about flying from" which appears monthly in Flying
It is by Doug Myers - ATE of California
It was a typical day
in Oregon. Low ceilings, with drizzle and about enough visibility to see
the radiator ornament as I drove toward our airport.
I had just soloed
the day previously, and wasn't about to let the weather deter me from
another exciting experience at the controls of an airplane. I admit that
I was pretty proud of my accomplishment and had invited my next door neighbor
to ride along with me. I planned to fly to a neighboring town about 200
miles away where I heard there was a good restaurant.
On the way to the
airport, my neighbor John Williams, expressed some worry about the trip.
"Don't worry about a thing," I reassured him, "I understand
the hamburgers are excellent."
When we arrived at
the field, the drizzle had turned into a hard steady rain. We checked
with the local operator and found that my regular airplane, a Cessna 120,
was down for repairs. The operator was a good hearted fellow though, and
when he saw my disappointment he assigned me another one, N 3341P, which
turned out to be a Piper Apache.
the same as a 120," he told me when I discovered there was an extra
engine. "Just remember you have to pull the gear up."
After a pre-flight
check of the airplane - (I noticed the tail wheel was missing but didn't
say anything to the operator for fear he would cancel the trip) - we climbed
aboard and I began looking for the starter. Just then the operator came
running out to tell me that there were severe thunderstorms at my destination,
and warned me to be careful. I assured him that I was not afraid of thunderstorms.
The takeoff was uneventful,
but we did use what seemed to be a lot of runway for an airplane with
two engines. (I learned later that we had taken off downwind with the
parking brake on.)
We climbed into a
solid overcast at about 400 feet. This was a bad disappointment as I know
John would have been interested in the scenery. The air was pretty smooth
though, and except for the ice that kept forming over the windshield there
was very little to see.
For a pilot with only
six hours I thought I handled the controls pretty smoothly, although,
for some strange reason, things would occasionally fly out of my pockets
up to the roof. John didn't seem to notice. In fact, he kept staring straight
ahead with a sort of glassy expression. I guess he was afraid of the height
as some non-pilots are.
After about an hour
I began to be concerned over the fact I could not see anything. It was
going to be difficult to spot other traffic around the airport at our
destination. I hoped the other pilots would use a little good sense and
keep a sharp eye in such bad weather.
It was obvious that
I was going to have to get down lower if I wanted to see anything. It
was too bad that the altimeter was so unreliable. It kept winding and
unwinding rapidly and I guessed that it hadn't been kept in good repair.
this plan, I began to come down. Just then the left engine quit. No warning,
nothing. It just quit. John made a sort of gurgling noise then and it
was about the first thing he had said since we left. I explained that
there was nothing to worry about as we had another engine that we hadn't
even used yet. So I started the right engine and John felt better after
that. He went to sleep.
Well, pretty soon
we did get down far enough so that I could see the ground. It was pretty
dark under the clouds and if it wasn't for the lightning flashes, it would
have been hard to find any good landmarks. Then I spotted a highway and
remembered there was a highway near the airport that we were headed toward,
so I followed it. It was difficult to read the road signs in all that
rain, and I had to stay pretty low. Several cars ran off the road when
we passed them, and I could see it was true about flying being a lot safer
After a while we did
find the airport, but I had to fly around the tower a few times to make
sure it was the right one. I didn't want to make a mistake and have everyone
know that I was just a student pilot. They were very hospitable at the
airport and flashed all sorts of colored lights as a welcome.
So I landed and slid
up to the parking area. (The operator should have mentioned that you had
to put the gear down again.) Everybody there was pretty excited. It was
easy to see they had never seen a Piper Apache before. John was still
sleeping soundly, and I had to have help to carry him into the restaurant.
Well, I certainly
learned about flying from that, and I want to pass on some good advice
to other pilots: Don't believe everything you hear - - the food was terrible!