Now, I'm only
42, but I can appreciate flying in comfort, and for some reason,
I get very relaxed during the pre-flight inspection. HEY! I MAKE
NO EXCUSES FOR WHAT I DID IN THERE!!!
I'm a man, damn-it,
and in some villages I'd be elected Chief after a dump like that.
Isn't it amazing
how you can't really smell just how bad your own crap smells like
while you're taking the dump? I mean, you know it's bad, but bad
enough to gag a runner? Well, the runners like to use about a half
a roll of toilet paper all wadded up, to blot off in the rest rooms.
Then they just drop it on the floor and walk out. They do it right
in front of the FBO staff, but they all have good manners and don't
make a fuss.
say, I was a local hero that morning when that 0% body-fat , perfectly-tuned-body
running guru trotted in already leaning into the direction the roll
would be located in. He came up short just in time to avoid hitting
the closed stall door (there's only one), and then he got that first
good, "been runnin' for an hour or more", heavy-breathing smell
of the Double Beefy Burrito I had just cast into the porcilin abyss,
he made an audible sound and retreated without trashing the place.
of fan noise is way better than ten minutes of picking up soggy
toilet paper with strangers' sweat on it. Don't trifle with me,
or I shall crap again!
OK, I set out
to tell you about Bob's flight, and so I better get back to it.
When I came
out from the bathroom festivities, the gang was just arriving. We
said our hello's and the whole bunch of us headed out to the plane.
Bob wore hearing aids on both ears, so he had to do a little experimenting
with the headset. Eventually, he opted to take them both out, and
use the volume control of the headset. I showed him our intended
route and briefed him, then we were ready to roll.
We waived goodbye
to Heather and Doug and Jake on the apron, then taxied out to the
end of 03 for our run-up. All went well as we took off over the
Port of Tampa, and headed southeast along the edge of the Bay and
passed over Apollo Beach, where Bob had friends.
along at 1,000' on around the Bay and passed over Ruskin, and then
passed between Anna Maria Island and Egmont Key, over the Skyway
Bridge and then North along the coast of DeSoto State Park.
It was early
in the morning, and the air was silky smooth. Bob was having a great
time, and had commented on how surprised he was at how much of his
pilot training was coming back to him after all this time. I had
already noticed his feet on the floor of the plane, moving like
they were pressing rudder pedals. See, Bob is very tall, and every
time I'd be applying left rudder his left leg would bump my knee.
North along the coast and Bob started talking up a storm. I don't
know how well he heard me, but I could hear him just fine and I
was able to point out lots of little details that he picked right
up on. I guess he must've been able to hear me well enough to get
He pointed out
some little islands that his other daughter had taken him to in
her family's boat club outing. He said the ride this morning was
infinitely smoother. I didn't have the heart to tell him that the
air was almost never this smooth along here. We checked out the
causway, and the beaches. We saw boats on the dark green water,
and jet skis blasting their white paths across the inlet. He pointed
out various hotels and commented on how different everything looked.
I bet it does!
During the trip,
Bob talked about learning to fly in a Luscomb, and how his instructor
would hold his knees on each side of the stick, then use them to
keep a student from making a sudden, stupid move. Bob was great
We went all
the way up the coast to Anklote Key, then turn due East to travel
inland along the Hernando County line. I pointed out Pilot Country
(K), which has been closed because a developer bought it. I tuned
into each airport we passed that day, as I always do, but this was
also to give Bob a chance to hear the chatter again. He ate it like
candy. I followed Hwy 52 east until we got to Tampa North (KX39)
and I-75, then turned South toward Peter O' again.
We covered the
last stretch along I-75, past Vandenburg (VDF) and over Brandon.
I flew him over
one more air field then. This one is special. It's longest runway
is 500', and I often wonder if it's even that long. It's a perfectly
miniature airport for R/C airplanes and belongs to Brandon Model
Flyers, where I'm a member. I wagged the wings at some friends who
were flying their R/C airplanes as we went over at about 1,000'.
They waved back and we started to set up for the pattern.
I called in
to Peter O' for a wind advisory, and they said it was calm. There
was a Mooney getting ready to take 21, but we were still 8 miles
out so we decided to wait for the Mooney, then enter a downwind
for 03. It may be calm right now, but this time of year at this
airport, at this time of day, the wind usually comes from about
060. It can come up out of nowhere, and this is an island, so I
knew from experience that if it didn't matter anyway, I'd better
be safer than sorry.
Well, the Mooney
dilly-dallied around long enough that we decided to depart the pattern
and circle around over the new cross-town project before re-entering
the pattern for 03. As we came around for final, sure enough there
was a little breeze and I was glad I had opted for this runway.
We dropped in just past the numbers and taxied off at the first
Bob was in a
great mood and had been excellent company. We had been gone about
an hour and a half. This would go a long way toward Heather feeling
comfortable with Doug and/or Jake flying with me.
When we got
back to the tie-down area, Jake, Heather and Lizzy were there to
greet Grampa. They all chattered excitedly while I tied down the
plane and got things ready to return it to the FBO. Doug
had pressed $160.00 into my hand when no-one was watching. The
actual flight was a little more than that, but I was so touched
that he made good on his offer (I'd never ask anyone to do so. You
either do or you don't), that I gladly (and subtly) paid the difference.
I heard Bob
telling Heather that it had been the smoothest flight he'd ever
been on, in the background.
We parted ways
in great spirits, and I loaded my junk in the X-terra and headed
back to Z-hills. We saw Heather and Doug again several weeks later
when we flew up to Cedar Key (KCDK), and they told us he'd had a
really great time. She's also OK with Doug and Jake flying with
me now that Bob gave me the nod. So, it turned out to be a fantastic
trip (we call it the "Beach Patrol" locally) never fails to impress,
and Bob turned out to be great company. To top it all off, I greased
the landing and I think the positioning of the runway on the island
and the psychological affect coming in over the water and all that
industrial Port stuff gave Bob lots to take in, as well.
Since this may
have very well been Bob's last flight, or at least among his last,
it was extremely important to me as well. I was relieved and pleased
that it had gone so well. I'd fly again with Bob if the chance arose,
too. I bet he's got a couple good stories to tell this Christmas,
Fair winds and
Whew! I gotta tell ya, nothin' says appreciation like footin' the
bill! If you regularly fly with someone else who rents a plane,
and you are not paying for any of it, don't be too surprised if
you start getting invited less and less.
If you agree
in advance to pay half and don't, you'll probably need to find another
pilot next time. Flying is expensive and most of us aren't wealthy
people. If you really want to make a great impression and get moved
straight to the top of the waiting list, offer to pay for an entire
flight. This'll cost you about $125.00 for the plane, worst case
scenario. What is more likely to happen, is that the pilot will
be duely impressed with your sincerity, and offer to split the flight
with you. After all, you will both be enjoying the trip. Now everybody's
happy, all customs have been observed, and you both appreciate what
the other brings to the table.