Saturday, June 2, 2012
Had a request for a flying story. This goes back many years but the lessons learned may still be applicable.
A friend had Cessna 185 he used to haul skydivers, among other activities. He suffered a broken leg and couldn’t fly. While his income stopped, his plane payments didn’t. He asked me to take over for a few weekends until he could get into a walking cast.
While he was trying to teach me the finer points of hauling fools, who pay money to jump out of a perfectly fine airplane, he handed me a spare magneto key and told me to put it my shirt pocket.
The first group were fine. The second group were jokers. The last jumper out of the plane turned off my magnetos and took the key with him. I was focused on my attitude and didn’t see him reaching until it was too late.
For non pilots, this wasn’t a big problem; simply glide to the airport and land. A little tricky but no big deal. What was a problem was the stress on the engine. We had just climbed 5,000 feet at maximum power, maximum climb, and the air cooled engine was hot. With no power, the engine will get “shock cooled” in places and stay hot (no oil circulation) in others. Not a good thing for long engine life.
Out with the spare key, magnetos on, cowl flaps shut, 900 r.p.m and the airplane in a nice nose down descent. Below me the jumpers chutes were opening. The jumper with my key was the last to deploy.
Wanting to make maximum use of my air time, I started practicing landings, using the top of his chute as a target. Lots of fun - got in two nice approaches by using one minute turns.
Once all of us were on the ground, a spirited conversation occurred, but the key was returned. The few following weekends went by with no further incidents.
Another thing I did for my friend was towing sailplanes. What fun! All of his customers were experienced, many working on their Diamonds, and all wanting altitude pronto. I understand some student pilots can give you a thrill. All of these people were great to work for.
My friend didn’t want landings with the tow rope attached. He wasn’t real pleased with my accuracy dropping tow lines. Muttered about “worse than an Air Force pilot.” About what you would expect from a Marine.
All too soon he was in a walking cast and my summer fun was over. Always have been grateful for the experience.