I am writing to you because I need your help to get me bloody pilot's
license back. You keep telling me you got all the right contacts. Well
now's your chance to make something happen for me because, mate, I'm bloody desperate.
But first, I'd better tell you what happened during my last flight review with
the CAA examiner.
On the phone, Ron (that's the CAA guy) seemed a reasonable sort of bloke. He politely reminded me of the need to do a flight review every two years. He even offered to drive out, have a look over my property, and let me operate from my own strip.
Naturally I agreed to that.
Anyway, Ron turned up last Wednesday. First up, he said he was a bit surprised
to see the plane on a small strip outside my homestead because the ALA (Authorized
Landing Area) is about a mile away. I explained that because this strip was so
close to the homestead it was more convenient than the ALA, and despite the power
lines that cross about midway down the strip it's really not a problem
to land and take-off because at the half-way point down the strip you're usually
still 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 all over again. Because Ron was watching me carefully, I walked around the plane three times instead of my usual two. My effort was rewarded because the color finally returned to Ron's cheeks. In fact, they were a bright red.
In view of Ron's obviously better mood, I told him that I was going to combine the test with some farm work as I had to deliver three poddy calves from the home paddock to the main herd. After a bit of a chase I finally caught the calves and threw them into the back of the ol' Cessna 172.
We climbed aboard but Ron started getting on to me about weight and balance calculations and all that crap. Of course I knew that thing was a waste of time because calves like to move around a bit, particularly when they see themselves 500 feet off the ground. So it's bloody pointless trying to secure them as you know. However, I did tell Ron that he shouldn't worry as I always keep the trim wheelset on neutral to ensure that we remain pretty stable at all stages throughout the flight.
Anyway, I started the engine
and cleverly minimized the warm-up time by tramping hard on the brakes and gunned
her to 2,500 rpm. I then discovered that Ron has very acute hearing,, even though
he was wearing a bloody headset. Through all that noise he detected a metallic
rattle and demanded that I account for it. Actually it began about a month ago
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 now but it doesn't
matter because it's jammed on "All Tanks" so I suppose that's okay.
However, as Ron was obviously a real nit-picker, I blamed the noise on a vibration from a steel thermos flask which I keep in a beaut possie between the windshield and the magnetic compass. My explanation seemed to relax Ron because he slumped back in the seat and kept looking up 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 chalk again." The bump jolted Ron back to full alertness. He
looked wildly around just in time to see a rock thrown by the propwash disappear
completely through the windscreen of his brand new Commodore.
While Ron was 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 started
coughing right at the lift off point, then he bloody screamed his head off.
"Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!"
"Now take it easy, Ron" I told him firmly. "That often happens after 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 of 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 if you know how to coax it properly. Anyway, at this stage, Ron seemed to lose all interest in my flight test. He pulled out some rosary beads, closed his eyes and became lost in prayer. (I didn't think that anybody was a Catholic these days.)
I selected some nice music on the HF radio to help him relax. Meanwhile,
I climbed to my normal cruising altitude of 10,500 feet. I don't normally put
in a flight plan or get the weather because, as you know getting fax access out
here is a friggin joke and the bloody weather is always 8/8 blue anyway. But
since I had that near miss with a Saab 340 I might have to change my thinking
on that. Anyhow, on levelling out I noticed some wild camels heading into my
I hate bloody camels and always carry a loaded .303 clipped inside
the door of the Cessna just in case I see any of the bastards. We were
too high to hit them, but as a matter of principle, I decided to have a go through
the open window. Mate, when I pulled the bloody rifle out the effect on Ron was
As I fired the first shot his
neck lengthened by about six inches and his eyes bulged like a rabbit with myxo.
He really looked as if he had been jabbed with an electric cattle prod on full
power. In fact, Ron's reaction was so distracting that I lost concentration for a second and the next shot went straight through the port tire. Ron
was a bit upset about the shooting (probably one of those pinko animal lovers
I guess) so I decided not to tell him about our little problem with the tire.
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 flaps, cut the
power and started a sideslip from 10,500 feet down to 500 feet and 130 knots
indicated (the last time I looked anyway) and the little needle rushing up the
red area on me ASI. What a buzz, mate!
About half way through the descent I looked back in the cabin to see the calves suspended in mid air and mooing like crazy. I was going to comment on this unusual sight but Ron looked a bit green and had rolled himself into the fetal position and was screamin' his freaking head off.
Mate, talk about being in a bloody zoo.
You should have been there, it was so bloody funny.
At about 500 feet I attempted
to level out. For some reason we continued sinking. When we reached 50 feet I applied full power but nothing happened; no noise, no nothin. Then, luckily, I heard me instructor's voice in me head saying "carby heat, carby heat".
So I pulled carby heat on and that helped quite a lot, with the engine finally
regaining full power.
Whew, that was really close, let me tell you.
Then mate, you'll never guess what happened next!
As luck would have it, at that height we flew into a massive dust cloud caused by the cattle and suddenly went I.F. bloody R. You would've been bloody proud of me as I didn't panic once, not once, but I did make a mental note to consider an instrument rating as soon as me gyro is repaired. (Something I've been meaning to do for a while now.)
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 emerge; still straight and level and still at 50 feet. Admittedly, I was surprised to notice that we were upside down and I kept thinking to myself, "I hope Ron didn't notice that I had forgotten to set the QNH when we were taxiing".
This minor tribulation forced me to fly to a nearby valley in which I had to do 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 right there."
Knowing that the tire problem demanded a slow approach, I flew a couple of steep turns with full flap. Soon the stall warning horn was blaring so loud in me ear that I cut it's circuit breaker to shut it up, but by then I knew we were slow enough anyway. I turned steeply into a 75 foot final and put her down with a real thud.
Strangely enough, I had always
thought you could only ground loop in a tail dragger but, as usual, I was proved
wrong again. Halfway through our third loop Ron at last recovered his sense
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, who bolted out of the aircraft like there was no tomorrow.
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 back to the homestead. It was then that Ron really lost the plot and started running away from the aircraft.
Can you believe it? 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-- poor bugger.
Anyhow, mate, that's enough about Ron. The problem is, I just got a letter from CASA withdrawing, as they put it, my privileges to fly; until I have undergone a complete pilot training course again and undertaken another flight proficiency test. Now I admit that I made a mistake in taxiing over the wheel chock and not setting the QNH using strip elevation, but I can't see what else I did that was so bloody bad that they have to withdraw me flamin' license. Can you?