Dan and grandfather
3 min read

“Dad, I really have to go!”

Those are not the words you want to hear at 4,500 feet, right around sunset in unfamiliar territory. They came from my nine year old son, Dan, back in mid-May of 1978. We were on our way in a Cessna 172 from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Hanscom Field, just outside of Boston. My dad was flying in to Logan Airport commercially from Florida for a visit with my aunt in Boston, so we flew down to meet him for a brief visit.

We left Bar Harbor on a clear late afternoon for the two-hour trip, leaving plenty of time to arrive at Hanscom before the “one hour after sunset” rule kicked in. I was not current at night, but that wasn’t a problem because we would be at Hanscom well within the timeframe. So, when Dan made his urgent announcement, “Dad, I really have to go,” it created a problem. If we landed to use the bathroom, we would not be at Hanscom in time to meet the one hour after sunset rule. What to do?

Dan and grandfather

The joys of traveling with family…

I told Dan to check the baggage area to see if there was anything he could use, and he found a metal lunch bucket that contained some crackers and a candy bar.  So, he removed the snacks, used the lunch bucket and put it back. End of story? No!

We landed at Hanscom about five minutes before the plane turned into a pumpkin (one hour after sunset), met my father and went to my aunt’s house for the evening and had a very nice visit. The next morning, back to Hanscom and then a nice flight back to Bar Harbor. Now, is that the end of the story? Not even close!

We landed in Bar Harbor, grabbed our overnight gear and went home… the lunch bucket still in the back of the plane with Dan’s specimen. Yup, forgot all about it.

Well, the plane we used was a local flying club Cessna 172, and about a month later the club had one of its regular meetings. The president of the club conducted the meeting and we discussed several plane-related concerns. He seemed a bit agitated during the meeting and just as it was ending, the agitation turned to anger. He wanted to know who p—-d in his lunch bucket!  Yes, it had remained in the plane (in the summer) for about a month. He was not happy. We all looked at each other inquisitively… no one seemed to know anything about it. I must add that all the other members, of course, had no idea who did it, but nonetheless they all had difficulty stifling an outburst of laughter. The lunch bucket mystery was never solved.

So now, and only now, can the whole story be told. My then-nine-year-old son, Dan, is now 47, the president of the club is long gone and the flying club has since disbanded.

So, I guess, that is the end of the story.

Rick Foster
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9 replies
  1. Gene Noonan
    Gene Noonan says:

    Lord! Low marks for flight planning(5 minutes was “well within the timeframe”?). Lower marks for integrity. Do us a favor and stay on the ground

    • Rick
      Rick says:

      ATTN: Gene Noonan

      Hi Gene,

      I’m sorry you missed the entire point of my article. It was meant to be a humorous story about a flight with my son almost 40 years ago. Just for the record, I actually had “plenty of time”. The ‘five minutes’ was a guess when I wrote the article. After reading your scathing comment about ‘integrity’ and flight planning, I went back and pulled my Flight Plan–yes, I still have it. The flight was actually 1:39 minutes, so I touched down more than 20 minutes ahead of the needed time. It appears my mistake was saying it was 5 minutes early and that is what caused you to go into a tizzy.

      I’m not sure how all this affects your safety 39 years later. It was a very uneventful flight and well within the legal limits. Do you really think that a perfectly legal safe flight 39 years ago is a threat to your flying now? Perhaps you could elaborate. Do you fly frequently along the coast of Maine at night? If so, let me know when you do and I’ll ‘stay on the ground’ for the duration of your flight. You are relatively safe because I haven’t flown at night for over 3 decades.

      The other option would be to take a chill pill and try to find the humor in the story. It really was funny!


  2. Richard
    Richard says:


    Don’t worry about the curmudgeon. We have all been there! I remember a flight back from the Dells in Wisconsin. We were a flight of three, and I had to make the quick decent into an airport right below us, shut the engine down as I was rolling to a stop, jump out and make a beeline to the John, abruptly telling a guy hanging around the airport who wanted to chat me up about my plane, Wait One Second!! It seems the longer you hold it the more you empty. Fine minutes later I emerge with a satisfied look on my face, and had a nice conversation with the gentlemen. LOL!

  3. Joe
    Joe says:

    I agree about ignoring curmudgeons, good response.

    My daughter managed one time, on a flight from the Bay Area to Columbia (State Park) to have to go 20 minutes (she’s a bit notorious that way) into the flight. After holding it for a half hour, with a bit over 30 minutes to go, she allowed my wife to talk her into going into a water bottle!

    We got her a Cabela’s Little John for Christmas…

  4. Jim D
    Jim D says:

    LOL bah hah hah hah hah … I’ve BEEN the son. Recently replaced my upholstery (long overdue!) – on it in the back seat was a bit of a stain from … well actually it was vomit, but you get the idea. I made that stain when I was 5. Yup, I still have that airplane and I’m 61.

    Yah, ignore Curmudgeon. Funny story.

  5. Rick
    Rick says:

    I’ll bet there are many, many more stories out there like these. Please keep them coming! Good fun stuff! Thanks.

  6. Owen
    Owen says:

    Thanks for a lovely story Rick.. It brought back many memories of flying my pre-teen kids to various vacation spots around our country way back in the 80’s. (One Boy, one Girl and of course, Mommy) My son always sat in front as right-seater and many of the flights were 4 hours plus. My 182 at the time (a ’69 Model) could not make the Johannesburg to Cape Town (700nm) hop in a single sitting, so we always had a stop on that trip. But South Africa is not as blessed with GA airfields as the USA so on many of the trips we had some hilarious opportunities to “get creative” into various substitutes for a “little john” and your story awoke those memories.
    I guess what I am trying to say is that its a great story, so ignore the cranky comment and think only of the many of us who enjoyed it.

    • Rick
      Rick says:

      Thanks Owen!

      Wow–you must have great memories of flying with your family over the years. What a wonderful experience seeing all the wonderful sights of South Africa from the air. Your kids must have wonderful memories that will carry with them all their lives.

      Thanks again, Owen, for sharing your story.

  7. Owen
    Owen says:

    Thanks for your kind comments Rick, and you are bang on!!
    Never a visit goes by without including some aviating memory that begins “Do you remember the time when…..” – Always good for a family laugh (and maybe even a misty eye or two).
    Now my new(ish) C182S with the long range tanks make a visit to the kids and grand kids a weekend affair. While aviation gave us memories then, it now gets us together often enough to share those memories together as a family.
    Happy memorial day to you and all those you love.

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