First Flights

By Roger Halstead

Copyright 1995

   Most of the pilots that I know are quite willing to jump-at-the-chance to demonstrate aviation, their airplane, and sometimes...skill to almost anyone who would like to "go-for-a-ride". Most of those same individuals, are courteous, safe, sane, and conservative pilots, but we...uh, they sometimes forget that it takes time to become accustomed to flight... uh flying. Have to be careful with those words; flight and flying. One means fun, freedom, exhilaration, etc etc... The other can often be interpreted as; "Get me out-of-here-now-before-I-put-my-lunch-on--your-windshield...RALPH!". Why they keep calling the pilot Ralph, I'll never know.

    If you've been flying for a few years it's easy to forget that for a passenger on his or her first trip aloft that the first can turn into the second with little warning. Introductory rides are best kept to about ten minutes with "gentle" climbs, turns, and descents. You too can be called Ralph!

   Which leads into a story related to me by a good friend.
It seems that Sam (not his real name), had invited a long time friend, Joe, to go for a ride in his Cherokee.

   Joe turned up at the terminal building early and eager for his long awaited chance to see the world from above. Sam was even earlier, with the Cherokee preflighted and ready to go by the time Joe pulled into the parking lot. Now Sam was a pretty conservative pilot. By that, I mean he liked clean windshields, kept the trash accumulation to a minimum in the Cherokee, practiced maneuvers, and even gave his passengers a thourough briefing. He was always careful to take first timers up on good days and in general gave them a good tour with no surprise. Besides he had no desire to deodorize the Cherokee or fly around with an open can of ground Coffee in the plane to kill the smell on hot days. (I've been told by reliable sources that this does work.) It also gives that gen-u-wine airliner aroma.

    At any rate it was a great day, both clear and smooth. They were off to a good start leaving Barstow around noon. It was about 25 miles to Joe's home and the two were soon engrossed in the scenery and conversation about several hobbies that they had in common.

    Well...25 miles doesn't take all that long at 125 mph and after circling Joe's house a couple of times they decided to see if they could rouse some friends who lived a little further out in the country. It didn't seem long, but they had been out for nearly an hour when Sam spotted another buddies house and decided to see if anybody was home. He did have the foresight to ask Joe how he was doing and if he minded if they checked out Tom's place. He received the dutiful reply "fine" and "No I don't mind".

   Sam then proceeded to make about a 45 degree banked turn followed by a shallow descent to Tom's house where he tipped 'er a bit to the left to get a good look. As sam rolled the wings level and started a gentle pull-up the following conversation ensued.

Joe:    Ahhh...Sam, eu gotta bag?
Sam:    Hun!
Joe:    GOTTA BAG!
Sam:    Joe! Don't joke bout sumthin like that!
Joe:    mmmph...Quick!

   At this point things became a little confused as Sam grabbed for the "lunch bag" that he always kept in the side pocket on his left and came up empty. This left him with no choice, but to reach across in front of Joe to check the side pocket on the right. ( A highly vulnerable position, particularly when Joe had just promised to go for the distance record for cookie tossing.) Sam grabbed the bag, which Joe grabbed from Sam. It was with horrible fascination that Sam watched Joe frantically trying to open a CLEAR!...Ziplock bag containing some Cherokee parts. Clear!...Ziplock!...Parts!...

Sam:    WAIT!
Joe:    mmmph;
Sam:     PLEASE wait! There's gotta be one in back!
Joe:    MMMPH!
Sam:    I got it! Here!

   Hereabouts Sam got real interested in the scenery out the left window and forgot all about Joe and that new David Clark headset he was wearing... That is until nature finally won and Joe durn near blew Sam's head set off with a full volume call to:

Joe:    RALPHHhh!
Sam:     JOE!
Joe:     EURALPHHh.ahh...
Sam:    JOE!!
Joe:    huhh...

   Sam, not completely having lost his hearing, yet, detected a lull in the storm. He reached over and pushed the boom mike around behind Joe's head and then it was back to scenery watching.

   A few minutes later a pale, wilted, and very shaken Joe tapped Sam on the shoulder and pronounced "I think I'm feelin' better now". By now Sam was fellin' a little "shakey" himself and had the "ol" Cherokee wound up fer all she was worth...Headin' for home.

   Well the rest of the trip was uneventful and smooth as silk. That is except for Sam's nerves. It's kind of hard to fly cross country with only the view from the left window. He did say it helped to make the pattern "nice-and-close". Oh yah...Sam also said Joe never did "use" the lunch bag, but it sure weren't fer lack a tryin'. That and the only other time he's ever seen a person that color... was on somebody surrounded by flowers.

   Can't say what happened to Joe after that. Sam says he's never seen him since, but He thinks Joe's working out on the east coast. Sam...Well, He's still flyin' and still takes an occasional first timer up "For a quick trip around the patch" and...He flys a nice tight pattern.

   It's all true...I swear. Sam told me so.

The says you are caller

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