I needed to get to work soon. I glanced at my phone to check the time, just as I saw Tex put the gear handle down. I heard the familiar whir of the hydraulic gear pump, but I felt an abnormal shimmy in the airframe. I knew then that we had a problem, and I dropped my phone back into my shirt pocket.
My phone dinged as the text message came through. “Can you spend the day in Griffin tomorrow?” I had a lesson first thing in the morning, but was otherwise free. I asked Dan what was going on. “DC-3 flying. Emerg.” I didn’t need any other details and I made arrangements to change what would have been a lazy Saturday into one that would doubtlessly not be boring.
As I was being vectored for an instrument approach into Thomaston, Georgia, the airplane suddenly lurched to the right. An engine had failed, as I’d suspected it might. I was rusty on my instrument flying skills, but I was flying only by reference to instruments. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.
“I think I might fly the BE-18 a few minutes next week. If you want a sneak peek, the left seat is yours…” Dan said in a Facebook message to me. It didn’t take long for me to say that I’d be there if I could. You know, as long as the world didn’t end or something.
“Wow,” I said. “A Stearman,” said Jerry. “You can’t see much, but it’s pretty easy as long as you stay on the grass.” I could not imagine what he was talking about – I had 78 hours in a Cessna 172.