Thursday, November 12, 2015

Who Needs Gas to Land A Plane?

I was flying an old worn-out Stearman, applying dry fertilizer to wheat fields. The fuel gauge was stuck but the boss said, "I will keep track of your loads and after every fourth load you fly, I will gas the plane."

Fine. No problem. I worked all day and finished the job. One of my flagmen, a fellow name Rex Yates, wanted a ride back to our home base in the fertilizer hopper of my plane. 

These hoppers were large enough that a man could sit in them comfortably. Rex was a talker and if you were standing too close in front of him while he was spewing out words right and left, right side up, some crossways and some upside down you would probably get spit on. He had a hot date that night and it was some 45 minutes back to the base by pickup truck. He wanted to get there faster, so he climbed in the hopper of my ship and sang out, "Take me to the airport, big guy, and don’t spare the horses. I'm in a hurry."

I gave him a nod and poured the coals to the Pratt Whitney and we headed home. When I made the final turn at the home airport, the engine went silent. Out of gas. 

The boss had obviously gotten distracted and had not refilled the gas tank and I was not watching that closely and assumed he had done so. No harm was done because I was only about 200 feet from the approach end of the runway and easily made it with room to spare. I greased it on so smooth there wasn’t even the slightest bump. 

Before the plane stopped rolling the lid to the hopper popped open. Rex was letting me hear from him. He was looking daggers at me and spit all over my wind shield as he hurled all kinds of invective, cursings and nasty expletives at me. 

"I had no idea you were going to run the blinking blanking plane out of gas! Any idiot knows they won’t run without fuel! You blink-de-blanking fool pilot! It is your responsibility to be sure you have enough gas to git where you are going before you leave the ground! Especially if you have passengers on board!! Idiot fool pilots anyway! You could have crashed landed in some trees or some other bad place and I didn’t even have a seat belt! I’ll never ride with you again!" 

He was still cursing and spitting as we walked to the hanger to tell the line boy to go gas the airplane so I could drive it to the hanger. "I ought to punch you in the nose and by golly if you weren’t bigger than I am I would. Everybody sez you are a good pilot but as far as I am concerned you ain’t worth a damn!"

"Oh calm down, Rex," I offered. "Think about that hot date tonight."