The One Hundred Dollar Hamburger

This web page was last updated

Saturday, July 11, 2009


- a takeoff on "I learned about flying from" which appears monthly in Flying Magazine. It is by Doug Myers - ATE of California

It was a typical day in Oregon. Low ceilings, with drizzle and about enough visibility to see the radiator ornament as I drove toward our airport.

I had just soloed the day previously, and wasn't about to let the weather deter me from another exciting experience at the controls of an airplane. I admit that I was pretty proud of my accomplishment and had invited my next door neighbor to ride along with me. I planned to fly to a neighboring town about 200 miles away where I heard there was a good restaurant.

On the way to the airport, my neighbor John Williams, expressed some worry about the trip. "Don't worry about a thing," I reassured him, "I understand the hamburgers are excellent."

When we arrived at the field, the drizzle had turned into a hard steady rain. We checked with the local operator and found that my regular airplane, a Cessna 120, was down for repairs. The operator was a good hearted fellow though, and when he saw my disappointment he assigned me another one, N 3341P, which turned out to be a Piper Apache.

"It's practically the same as a 120," he told me when I discovered there was an extra engine. "Just remember you have to pull the gear up."

After a pre-flight check of the airplane - (I noticed the tail wheel was missing but didn't say anything to the operator for fear he would cancel the trip) - we climbed aboard and I began looking for the starter. Just then the operator came running out to tell me that there were severe thunderstorms at my destination, and warned me to be careful. I assured him that I was not afraid of thunderstorms.

The takeoff was uneventful, but we did use what seemed to be a lot of runway for an airplane with two engines. (I learned later that we had taken off downwind with the parking brake on.)

We climbed into a solid overcast at about 400 feet. This was a bad disappointment as I know John would have been interested in the scenery. The air was pretty smooth though, and except for the ice that kept forming over the windshield there was very little to see.

For a pilot with only six hours I thought I handled the controls pretty smoothly, although, for some strange reason, things would occasionally fly out of my pockets up to the roof. John didn't seem to notice. In fact, he kept staring straight ahead with a sort of glassy expression. I guess he was afraid of the height as some non-pilots are.

After about an hour I began to be concerned over the fact I could not see anything. It was going to be difficult to spot other traffic around the airport at our destination. I hoped the other pilots would use a little good sense and keep a sharp eye in such bad weather.

It was obvious that I was going to have to get down lower if I wanted to see anything. It was too bad that the altimeter was so unreliable. It kept winding and unwinding rapidly and I guessed that it hadn't been kept in good repair.

Anyway, following this plan, I began to come down. Just then the left engine quit. No warning, nothing. It just quit. John made a sort of gurgling noise then and it was about the first thing he had said since we left. I explained that there was nothing to worry about as we had another engine that we hadn't even used yet. So I started the right engine and John felt better after that. He went to sleep.

Well, pretty soon we did get down far enough so that I could see the ground. It was pretty dark under the clouds and if it wasn't for the lightning flashes, it would have been hard to find any good landmarks. Then I spotted a highway and remembered there was a highway near the airport that we were headed toward, so I followed it. It was difficult to read the road signs in all that rain, and I had to stay pretty low. Several cars ran off the road when we passed them, and I could see it was true about flying being a lot safer than driving.

After a while we did find the airport, but I had to fly around the tower a few times to make sure it was the right one. I didn't want to make a mistake and have everyone know that I was just a student pilot. They were very hospitable at the airport and flashed all sorts of colored lights as a welcome.

So I landed and slid up to the parking area. (The operator should have mentioned that you had to put the gear down again.) Everybody there was pretty excited. It was easy to see they had never seen a Piper Apache before. John was still sleeping soundly, and I had to have help to carry him into the restaurant.

Well, I certainly learned about flying from that, and I want to pass on some good advice to other pilots:  Don't believe everything you hear - - the food was terrible!


TN00040A.gif (2291 bytes)  The One Hundred Dollar Hamburger

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This web site was last updated

Saturday, July 11, 2009

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