It was clear, it was fresh with only a faint odor of exhaust from the nearby Braniff jet’s APU to remind us there were easier ways to fly for a living. Over there was hot coffee, hostesses, snacks from the galley. Over here, we could see our breath in the cabin. When will I be warm while flying airplanes? Not soon, I knew.
I had volunteered to fly Bill in from Des Moines earlier in the day and had spent the rest of it waiting at the Dubuque airport for his return. The airplane, an older model Cessna 182 and unfamiliar to me, was borrowed from of friend of his. I had never flown it before, nor had I bothered to pay much attention to its panel layout. Those were details meant only for bush-league pilots, not me.
Who hasn’t wanted to be that “go to” person with our fellow pilots? I’ll bet more of us want to be the one helping than want to be the one asking for help. That’s normal but pilots, copilots, instructors, and yes, students too, have to know when the situation demands real honesty and humility instead of, “Sure, no problem.”
This is no way to begin a trip and I knew it. What if I lose an engine on takeoff tonight in this crud? Nothing like the real thing to test a pilot! Every pilot will tell you there is a big difference between engine-out flying during training or a check ride, and engine-out flying for real. But how will I do if it happens tonight?
Thinking about the position I’m in strikes me a little funny, and I imagine anybody who might see me would think it’s funny too: stretched out on the ramp with my head propped up on a tire of a C-47 reading a magazine. I must look like I just laid down and sprawled myself out! But actually, I planned it very carefully. I’m clear of the occasional drop of oil from the left engine but still in the shade.