2020 CONTINUES TO LOOK REALLY GOOD, SAFETY WISE, WITH ONLY 2 ACCIDENTS SO FAR INVOLVING FATALITIES. IRONICALLY, BOTH FATALITIES WERE PASSENGERS IN THE AIRCRAFT, ALTHOUGH THE ONE PASSENGER IN THE HELICOPTER CRASH WAS A CERTIFIED PILOT, BUT NOT ARIZONA-BASED. WE DID, HOWEVER, LOSE AN ARIZONA-BASED PILOT AND HIS FAMILY IN A FATAL CRASH UP IN NEVADA IN LATE APRIL.
With the COVID-19 pandemic projected to start winding down here in Arizona over the next several months – keep your fingers crossed – we can start to ramp up our flying. But as a result of the stay-at-home recommendation, a lot of us have ended up in the “rusty pilots club,” so we all need to be extra careful getting back into the swing of things. In the upcoming months, I see a real opportunity for many of you to get into the “Wings” program. Get proficient with your local friendly flight instructor, and while doing that, complete a phase of “Wings” and get proficient and earn credit at the same time, and you help ensure our safety record stays at the current level. Remember, your safety is no accident!! And while you are at it, don’t forget about safe distancing, even though I know it is hard (Duh!) to keep 6 feet between you and your instructor, your buddy or your wife in the right seat! USE A MASK!! This COVID-19 is a sneaky, rat-bastard virus that does not care about who you are, how old you are, or where you live. It is out to get us all, and we need to remember that. We need to take the appropriate safety measures to avoid both getting it and spreading it until the scientists come up with the vaccine to beat it. Don’t be scared of it, don’t hide from it, don’t let it dominate your life; just adapt, take the proper precautions, and go on with your life.
Kudos Section –
Going flying, escaping into the wild blue yonder, is a great way to enjoy quarantine. But if you take your wife or a friend with you, don’t forget masks, wipe down your controls, avionics knobs, door handle and clean all of your headset mic’s…
Oh crap, how much is this gonna cost??
So, if you remember from last month’s story, there we were, about 10 miles south of the Columbia, Missouri airport, NORDO, and with coordinated entry into the airport traffic pattern. I turned on all the lights out of habit, then remembered “I ain’t got no electrics,” so I turned everything back off! I don’t remember the exact runway in use anymore, but it was a southwesterly orientation and we were coming from the south. It was a perfect set up for a 45 entry into the left downwind, which we did. I waggled the wings aggressively, saw the steady green light from the tower cab, and just made a nice normal no-flap landing. As we rolled down the runway towards the taxiway that the supervisor previously suggested I turn off on, Kelly looked at me and asked, “Why are all those fire trucks following us down the runway?”
A quick glance back, and sure enough, there they were, on the parallel taxiways, following us down the runway, with lots of flashing lights. Apparently they were waiting for us. Why else would they be out there? So I told Kelly, “The tower must have alerted them to our NORDO status and they went out as a precaution.” I turned off on the appropriate taxiway, taxied into the ramp following the “Follow Me” cart, parked up close to the maintenance hangar, and shut down. Within a minute we were surrounded by the Crash Fire Rescue team for the airport, all decked out in their aluminum fire-proof fire fighting suits. The (apparent) team leader came up to my side after I popped open the vent window and asked, “Are you the folks with the emergency?”
Now, at no time during any of the conversations with the tower supervisor did I ever use the word “Emergency,” or ever infer that there was one. We were just a coordinated NORDO arrival into a class D airport. Apparently, the tower thought otherwise…
After a funny look at Kelly and a decision to be nice, but honest, I turned to the Crash Rescue guy and in response to his “Are you the folks with the emergency?”
question, simply said, “Nope, not us!” The dejected look on his face was priceless. Kelly said, “OMG, I hope they didn’t leave the football game on TV to come out here just for us!” Which is exactly what they did, somewhat dejected because of no action required, but sort of relieved, because they quietly retired back to the fire station and resumed watching the Sunday afternoon football games.
The FBO got us a good rate at one of the local hotels and gave us the keys to a nice crew car, so bright and early the next morning we were back at the FBO maintenance hangar checking on “what condition our condition was in” (sic)! A quick look-see by the IA determined the alternator was a goner. Naturally, they did not have one in stock, but advised me they could have one delivered overnight, the next morning by 10:30am or so. Bummer! So, I asked where it was coming from, and the answer was St. Louis. Whoa, hold on a minute. St. Louis is less that 100 miles from Columbia, a shorter hop than running down to Phoenix from Flagstaff (almost a common everyday occurrence if you live in Flagstaff). We already had the crew car, so I spoke up and said, “What if I drive over there myself and get it?” “Sure,” said the IA, “Let me call them and set that up.” I reminded him to get GOOD directions, which he did. Armed with his directions, out of the airport and onto the interstate, Kelly and I were off on another adventure, a short road trip across the open plains of Missouri, off to find an aircraft parts distributor in the big city. St. Louis is a big city that we had never been to before, but the directions were flawless. We made great time on the interstate – don’t ask me what the speed limit was! We found the distributor right off, paid for it on the spot (saving the overnight shipping charges!), threw the alternator in the car, turned around and were back at the FBO in Columbia by the time lunch hour ended. Again, don’t ask, but the rental car did run really good!! By 3:00pm, the alternator was installed and tested, battery charged up, log book entries completed, bill paid, (which, by the way, was very reasonable), and we were back on our way with only a half day delay in our plans. The rest of the trip was totally uneventful, although I had one eye on the new alternator for the first hour or two. We made a quick fuel stop in the Cincinnati area, and then motored on into Frederick, MD, landing after dark, but glad to be back. And yes, we did work Potomac approach using the Washington, DC, SFAR procedures. I even refreshed myself with the AOPA course before we ever left Flagstaff.
We returned to Flag about two weeks later, without any problems whatsoever.
All in all, just a blip in another flying adventure, another story to add to our diary of flight. So, y’all live long and prosper, and remember, keep the shiny side up!