Bull, but not like you think

My bedtime reading this month is Gordon Baxter’s Bax Seat. He’s a hoot to read. If you’ve never experienced him, file a flight plan to Amazon and pick up a copy of one of his books. Right now, I’m knee deep in the chapter, “A little orange-and-white airplane,” about his first airplane.

It’s a love story.

As a side note—and Bax was famous for his side notes—he mentions that his plane was born February 27, 1968, which makes her a Pisces. That struck a chord with me, but to be honest, I’d never thought twice about Tess’s Zodiac sign. I put the book down and headed for a computer.

My little blue-and-white love is, as it turns out, a Taurus.

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Sidney Hall, 1824 from OpenClipArt.org

Not knowing—or caring—much about horoscopes and the like, I had to do some research. According to Uncle Google, Taurians are reliable (ha!), practical, ambitious, and sensual (how true). Oddly, they are apparently earth signs, which seems odd to me for an airplane. I wasn’t sure how all this was stacking up, and it wasn’t improving my option about all things Zodiac until I picked up two little tidbits.

The first was the Taurus motto: “Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy.” Now that describes airplane ownership! And the second was the perfect love matches. Apparently, the top matches for a Taurus are Virgo, Capricorn, or Pisces.

I’m a Virgo.

Tess’s owner, Grandma Jean, is a Capricorn.

And Rio, Tess’s next caretaker, is a Pisces.

Sounds to me like matches made in the heavens.

 

Turbulence Tale

Wolf Creek Pass (way up on the great divide) behind me, I dropped the Robin’s egg blue Piper Warrior down into the loving arms of the San Luis Valley. The air was smooth, the hard part of the trip was behind me. I trimmed the plane for level hands-off flight, sat back, and pulled a Camel Hard Pack and a Zippo from the sleeve pocket of my flight jacket. I tapped a cancer stick free of the box, lit up, then snapped the lighter shut one-handed, enjoying the satisfying snap-clunksound of the Zippo as I exhaled a stream of blue-grey smoke towards the cabin roof.

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Ain’t life grand? What a view. I inhaled deeply, the tip of the cigarette glowing bright orange for a moment, and scanned my instruments. What a lovely panel, midnight black with a bank of avionics that exceeded my net worth five times over. Enough dials, switches, and needles to make me feel like I was a full-grown adult flying a corporate jet, not a teenage boy in a four-seat put-put.

The next order of business was lunch. I tore open a bag of Fritos and positioned them on my lap. I was reaching for the can of Pepsi when Bam!

My seat belt dug into my gut. My head hit the ceiling. And a cloud of yellow Frito chips levitated out of the bag, dancing, suspended in air around my face like a swarm of giant mosquitos, turning and twisting as if in the zero gravity of space.

Then everything was deathly still. The plane calm. Fritos rained noiselessly down from the ceiling, bouncing off the throttle quad, the glare screen, and the empty copilot’s seat. Holy shit. I looked left. The left wing was still on. I looked right. The right wing was still on. Hand shaking, I gently took the yoke. Gentle bank left. Gentle bank right. Nose up. Nose down. Everything is working as it should. What the hell…?

Then I realized: I’d just had my first encounter with clear air turbulence, what pilots call a pot hole in the sky. It was just an angry patch of air in an otherwise friendly atmosphere. I’ve learned since, by experience, that these isolated butt-kickers pack a bigger wallop than the turbulence you get when the whole sky is in chaos, but I’m not sure why. It’s just one of those things.

I scooped the Fritos from the copilot’s seat into my mouth, and thought better of opening the can of Pepsi, just in case another pot hole was lurking ahead in the deep blue sky.

When I landed at KGXY, after slipping over the last bastion of the Rockies at La Veta Pass and flying IFR up Interstate 25, I parked at the furthest tiedown spot from the Imperial Aviation building so I could surreptitiously clean up the mess. Everybody smoked in their planes in those days. But Fritos? That was a no-no.

I thought I did a pretty good job, but about three days later one of the instructors stopped me on the ramp, “Hey, Wil, the weirdest thing happened the other day. I dropped one of the checklists on the floor when I was pre-flighting Eight Two Charlie and there was a ton of Fritolay chips under the pilot’s seat. You know anything about that?”

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“Nope,” I lied with a straight face, “if I was going to have Fritos in the plane, I’d eat them, not pour them out on the carpet under the seat. But I do smoke in the plane all the time.”

“Yeah, yeah, well, we all do that,” said the instructor, snapping his Zippo shut one handed and blowing a stream of blue-grey smoke towards the flight line. His eyes narrowed as he studied the distant horizon, “Huh, I wonder where the heck those chips came from?”

 

A new organization for real pilots

“Excuse me, lady, is this where the meeting of the N-F-F-A is being held?” I asked, adjusting my flight jacket, the one that’s never been flying, and looking around hopefully for people who look, you know, something like me.

You see, it’s not just birds of a feather that flock together, we humans do, too. We enjoy the company of people who are, well, like us. And when it comes to flying, there’s no end of such organizations, I know, because at one time or another, I’ve been a member of most of them, including:

 

The Airborne Law Enforcement Association.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, known as AOPA.

The Aviation Association of Santa Fe.

The Brodhead Pietenpol Association.

The Civil Air Patrol, or CAP.

The Commemorative Air Force.

The Ercoupe Owners Club.

The Experimental Aircraft Association, known as EAA.

The Hat in the Ring Society.

The International Aerobatic Club.

The National Aeronautic Association, known as the NAA.

The Reno Air Racing Association.

The New Mexico Pilots Association.

The Silver Wings Fraternity.

The Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, known as SAFE.

The Sport Air Racing League, or SARL.

The Vintage Aircraft Association.

 

My, my, my. I’m quite the little joiner, aren’t I? And I’ve probably been a member of seventeen other flying organizations that I’ve completely forgotten about. But that said, I’ve let my membership in most of these outfits lapse. Why? Well, I don’t really fit in. Or more correctly said, none of these associations, clubs, coalitions, confederations, cooperatives, federations, fraternities, guilds, leagues, organizations, and societies fit me. They don’t serve the needs of pilots like me. And I bet I’m not the only one.

So I decided to start my very own organization.

An organization for mutual support for real pilots and real flying. One that will give us kinship of common cause. One that will show us that we are not alone. One that will give us the support of our peers. One that will let us share our experiences with sympathetic ears, and get the counsel of the more experienced. One that genuinely represents our needs and helps us with the true realities that go hand-in-hand with the dual dreams of flight and of airplane ownership. One that recognizes the painful side of flight and the dark side of airplane ownership. Yes, an association that will keep the dream of flight alive for its members while their planes languish in the hangars of their mechanics.

In short, a club for people like me with airplanes that always seem to be broken down.

I’m going to call it the Non-Flying Fliers Association, or, in the aviation tradition of abbreviating everything, the NFFA. Our motto will be “All the same money, none of the fun.” I even came up with a swank logo:

 

Sick Ercoupe art

 

I couldn’t wait. I fired off emails to all my pilot friends. They all thought the new association was a great idea, but none of them could spare any money for dues.

All their planes are broken down.