|A PILOT'S SUBMISSION TO THE CIVIL AVIATION SAFETY AUTHORITY (CASA)
On the phone Ron seemed a reasonable sort of bloke. He reminded me of the need to do a flight review every two years. He even offered to drive out, look over my property and let me operate from my own ALA (authorised landing area). Naturally I agreed to that.
Anyway, Ron turned up last Wednesday. He said he was a bit surprised to see the plane outside my homestead because the ALA is about a mile away.
I explained that being close, this strip was more convenient, but there are power lines crossing it at about midway but it's really no problem to land and take-off because at the half-way point you are always on the ground.
For some reason Ron seemed nervous. So, although I had done the pre-flight inspection only four days earlier, I decided to do it again. Because he was watching me carefully, I walked around the plane three times instead of my usual two. My effort was rewarded because the colour returned to Ron's cheeks - in fact they went to a bright red.
In view of Ron's obviously better mood, I told him I was going to combine the test flight with my requirement to deliver three poddy calves from the home paddock to the main herd. After a bit of a chase I caught the calves and threw them in the back. We climbed aboard but Ron started nagging about weight and balance calculation. Of course I knew that sort of thing was a waste of time because stock likes to move around a bit. However, I did assure Ron that I keep the trim wheel Araldited to neutral so we would always remain stable.
Anyway, I started the engine and cleverly minimised the warm-up time by tramping hard on the brakes and gunning her to 2,500 rpm. I then discovered that Ron has very acute hearing. Through all that noise he detected a metallic rattle and demanded I account for it. Actually it began last month and was caused by a screwdriver that fell down a hole in the floor and lodged in the fuel selector mechanism. The selector can't be moved but because it was on 'All tanks' I figured it didn't matter.
However, as Ron was obviously a nit picker, I blamed the noise on vibration from a stainless steel thermos I keep in a beaut little possie between the windshield and the magnetic compass. My explanation seemed to relax Ron because he slumped back in the seat and looked at the cockpit roof. I released the brakes to taxi out but unfortunately the plane gave a leap and spun to the right, "Hell" I thought, not the starboard wheel chock again. The bump jolted Ron back to full alertness. He looked wildly just in time to see a rock thrown by the propwash disappear through the windscreen of his new Commodore.
While Ron was busy ranting about his car, I ignored his requirement that we taxi to the ALA and instead took off under the power lines. Ron didn't say a word, at least not until the engine coughed at lift off, then he screamed, "Oh God!" "Now take it easy," I told him firmly, "That often happens on take-off and there is a good reason for it." I explained patiently that I usually run the plane on standard MOGAS but one day I accidentally put in a gallon or two of kerosene. To compensate for the low octane of the kerosene I siphoned in a few gallons off super MOGAS and shook the wings up and down a few times to mix it up. Since then the engine has been coughing a bit but in general it works just fine.
At this stage Ron seemed to lose all interest in the flight test. He pulled out some rosary beads, closed his eyes and became lost in prayer.
I selected some nice music on the HF to help him relax. Meanwhile I climbed to my normal NOSAR NODETAILS cruising altitude of 10,500 feet.
On levelling out I noticed some wild camels heading into my improved pasture.
I hate camels and always carry a loaded .303 carbine clipped inside the door. We were too high to hit them, but as a matter of principle, I decided to have a go through the open window. The effect on Ron was electric. As I fired the first shot his neck lengthened by about six inches and his eyes bulged like a rabbit with myxo.
In fact, Ron's reaction was so distracting that I lost concentration and the next shot went through the port tyre. Ron was a bit upset about the shooting, probably one of those pinko animal lovers - I thought, so I decided not to tell him about our little problem. Shortly afterwards I located the main herd and decided to do my fighter pilot trick. Ron had gone back to praying when, in one smooth sequence, I pulled on full flap, cut the power and started a sideslip down to 500 feet.
About half way through the descent I looked back to see the calves gracefully suspended in mid air. I was going to comment on this unusual sight but Ron had rolled himself into the foetal position and was emitting high pitched squeals.
At about 500 feet I levelled out, but for some reason we continued sinking. When we reached 50 feet I applied power and that helped quite a lot. As luck would have it, at that height we flew into a dust cloud caused by the cattle and went IFR. I made a mental note to consider an instrument rating as soon as the gyros are repaired.
Suddenly Ron's elongated neck and bulging eyes reappeared. His mouth opened wide, very wide, but no sound emerged. "Take it easy," I told him. "we'll be out of this in a minute."
Sure enough, about a minute later we emerged; still straight and level and still at 50 feet. Admittedly I was surprised to notice that we were upside down. This minor tribulation forced me to fly to a nearby valley in which I did a half roll to get upright again.
By now the main herd had divided into two groups leaving a narrow strip between them. "Ah!," I thought, "there's an omen. We'll land there."
Knowing that the tyre problem demanded a slow approach, I flew a couple of steep turns with full flap. Soon the stall warning horn came on and so I knew we were slow enough. I turned steeply onto a 75 foot final and put her down. Strangely enough, I had always thought you could only ground loop in a tail dragger.
Halfway through our third loop Ron at last recovered his sense of humour.
Talk about laugh... I've never seen the likes of it; he couldn't stop. We finally rolled to a halt and I released the calves.
I then began picking clumps of dry grass. Between gut wrenching fits of laughter Ron asked what I was doing. I explained that we had to stuff the port tyre with grass so we could fly home. It was then that Ron started running.
The last time I saw him he was off into the distance, arms flailing in the air and still shrieking with laughter. I later heard that he had been confined to a psychiatric institution.
Anyhow that's enough about Ron; I just got a letter from CASA withdrawing, as they put it, the privilege of holding a license to fly.
Now I admit that I made a mistake in taxiing over the wheel chock but I can't see what else I did that was so terrible. Can you?