Excerpt from Winging It! With Dr. Paul: Forty Tales Your Flight Instructor Never Told You (copyright © 1989 by H. Paul Shuch)
Every few years in our flying careers we come due for a religious experience. My latest was an act of appeasement to the Greek God Aeolus, Ruler of the Wind. I've just participated in my first sacrifice of a virgin sprinkler head.
Five years flying out of 1C9, the airport whose middle name is Crosswind, made me just a bit cocky. I'd come to learn how to exceed the maximum demonstrated crosswind component of my plane by landing into the left corner, rolling toward the right of Runway Two Three, creating my own Runway Two Six. I'd become adept at dropping the right wing, tracking straight ahead with rudder pressure, landing on the right main with winds from three zero zero at three zero. But never in a deluge.
Wet grass, I've just learned, affords all the traction of sheet ice. Now any fool knows not to land on ice unless the wind is straight down the runway. This fool just learned the same applies to soggy sod. I held the upwind wing down expertly, tracked the imaginary diagonal line perfectly, the rudder kept the nose just where I wanted it, yet still I slid sideways to the edge of the grass. And a little beyond.
Thank Aeolus for the frangible plastic couplings at the base of the sprinkler heads, neither the Rain Bird nor the Beech Bird sustained any damage. My ego, however, was as crushed as the coupling. I returned the remnants of both to the Corporation Hangar, along with a note of apology. Good old Leonard, I thought about our airport handyman, if not the one, he can surely repair the other!
One of our Directors asked me how I intended to pay for the damage. "With my pen," I replied. "It's mightier than the crosswind."
"Fine," he said, "make the check out to Frazier Lake Airpark Association."
The fellow behind me in the pattern, witnessing my folly, opted to land on the taxiway, which presented me with something of a dilemma. Though he handled the crosswind far better than I, though I could see the reasoning behind his actions, as a member of the Safety Committee I was nonetheless obligated to treat him to a mild reprimand. Our taxiway is not a runway, after all.
"What would you have me do," he asked insolently, "take out another sprinkler head?"
"No," I replied, "why not use the crosswind runway?"
What crosswind runway, he wanted to know, and I suggested Three Zero at Hollister. He protested that that's five miles away, but I responded that taxi rides are cheaper than sprinkler heads - or taxiway repairs.
My attempt at a takeoff, though inflicting less damage on the airport, was every bit as dramatic as my landing. Within fifty feet of roll, I had lost all directional control, thought "Abort!" and chopped the throttle. "How far did you slide sideways?" I was asked afterward. "How wide is the runway?" I replied.
Two hours later the winds had abated, and a normal takeoff was possible. Aeolus was appeased.
If you can drive, you can fly!
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This page last updated 1 June 2010
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