Hell of a Guy

Little Rock or Bust…


Traveling today on one of those pesky business trips; this one to a so called “Managers’ Meeting” in Conway, Arkansas, just northwest of Little Rock.  I suppose one might surmise, this is not a trip of anticipated joy.  The longer I work, the more dislike (hate is such a powerful word) meetings of most any kind.  This one is far from voluntary, it is conscripted - whine, whine and more whining and so on and so on. 

I am flying, and I like to fly.  To me it is restful.  I got to thinking as I was about to board this Southwest flight that I am totally comfortable when I am flying.  I have no fear of it and I am not afraid of any part of it.  My confidence level in the abilities of the flight crew to get me where I am supposed go safely is very high, extremely high.

There have been times, many years ago, when I was perhaps a tad spooked on a flight.  The first was on – this will immediately give away the age of this incident to some old-timers – an Eastern Airlines flight from Atlanta to Little Rock.  As we reached our cruising altitude and had just reclined our seats to reach a maximum comfort level, there was a very loud hissing sound followed by the plane making a very steep dive toward the rapidly approaching earth below.  It seemed to last for hours, but was in fact only about a minute tops.  With the majority of the very anxious passengers sensing this was not standard operating procedure, while attempting to not look like they suffered from a pre-mature sphincter opening, the pilot came on over the PA system to explain the plane had lost cabin pressure, hence the sudden loss of altitude from 26,000 feet to just under 12,000, and would be returning to Atlanta for repairs.  There was a noticeable sigh of relief as we realized we were not going to die that day, but just scared shitless, so to speak.

The other incident took place in 1989.  I was in a small plane, a two-seater Cessna 152.  The seat beside me was vacant.  I was the pilot.

I was performing a student flight maneuver referred to in flying jargon as “Touch and Goes.”  In this, you take off and basically fly around the airport in a pattern from one end of the runway to the other, make like you are going to land, but just as you hit the runway, simultaneously hit the throttle, power up and take off again. I think that day I probably did twenty or so of these touch and goes and was in the process of making my final landing.  Just about two or three seconds before I touched down a strong gust of wind crossed the runway from the west. It caused the tail end of the plane to swing around, and suddenly I was looking at a dirt field rather than the runway.  The plane hit the ground and bounced, but it hit on asphalt and not dirt, and, praise the Lord, righted itself.  I hit the brakes and pushed as hard as I could, my only thought was to get out of that plane and never set foot in it again.  I didn’t do it.

Though my confidence in the abilities of the pilot on that particular day was irrevocably damaged, I turned off the active runway, continued to the taxiway and approached the takeoff area one more time.  I just knew, had I not, I would have never taken another lesson.  Nonetheless, I never took another lesson.  Instead, I did what I thought to be the most prudent; I left the flying to the professionals and became just another career passenger, aka “frequent flyer point earner.”.

As we begin our decent today through a thick layer of clouds, and not really able to see anything out the windows, even the ends of the wings, I am confident the lady I saw with the captain’s epaulets is more than qualified to get this tin can on the ground in one piece.  So I am going to turn this blasted contraption off, close my eyes and enjoy the rest of this flight all the way to the ground, whatever that might mean.

And that is all I have to say about that…

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