Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Evil Airplane/X-Country from Hell

Another flying story has been requested. At the start of my short lived aviation career, I worked for a madman who bought airplanes sight unseen. After he bought one, someone would be sent to fetch it; in this case, me. One fine day I was dropped off in Lexington, TN to pick up an Ercoupe and return to Colorado.

The Ercoupe is a simple two place fixed gear low wing aircraft with a bubble canopy cockpit and twin tails. Looks like a mosquito. Entry is made via the bubble. Two panels slide down and you can fly it that way. They have interconnected controls and are stall and spin proof. You maneuver on the ground with the yoke much like driving a car. I find them fun to fly.

The Ercoupe I found was in poor condition and "out of license". A local A&P (mechanic) signed it off for a ferry flight and away we go. The Ercoupe has three fuel tanks, in each wing and behind the engine. The lines are inside the cockpit and the rubber hose for the left tank ruptured. Ten gallons of gasoline was now soaking my left leg. What you might call a potentially explosive situation. First, I slid down the canopy windows. Then, very gently, I started a shallow climb. This allowed the fuel to run to the tail where small holes are built in to drain condensation. The master electrical switch, conveniently located on the bulkhead behind the pilots head, I left alone and the radio I didn't touch. After an hour I started to think about landing. Paducah, KT, seemed to make sense.

Per my sectional map, the airport was five miles West of downtown Paducah. Picking up a sectional line, I flew the appropriate amount of time to cover five miles. No airport. The fine compass in the Ercoupe showed me flying Northwest. This compass was an automobile accessory compass with a price tag that said, "Gamble 39 cents".
After several tries, I figured out the railroad tracks from the map to the ground and followed one until, the airport! On the ground, I learned Paducah is one of the few places sectional lines don't run East/West.

With repairs made and clean pants, off we go until we hit Interstate 70. Hard to get lost following an Interstate. On a warm day, the average VFR pilot will climb to smooth air, usually about 2,000' above the ground. Keeping the Interstate off the left wing, you have an easy and smooth flight. Exactly where most General Aviation aircraft can be found, outside of Kansas City, an aerial intersection called Bonner Springs is located. This intersection is where large jet airliners are maneuvered for approaches to Kansas City airports. If one deliberately set out to create a perfect place for mid air collisions, this is the place. Here I am droning along in the haze when I see the nose of a TWA 727. I'm close enough to tell the captain isn't wearing a hat and the copilot is. People will tell you you can't snap roll an Ercoupe. Maybe so, but I did that day.

When I got the cursed Ercoupe to Colorado, the only instruments working were the oil pressure and altimeter. Did I mention the brakes stopped working? Fun, fun, fun.

Note to Dirty Al. The story you want to see won't happen. Statute of Limitations doesn't apply.

1 comment:

Old NFO said...

heh- At least you didn't have to land on I-30... :-) And you missed the oil burner routes enroute at 2000 feet. :-)