Thursday, June 4, 2009

Famous last words in aviation

By William Kershner

1.. If this tailwind holds up, we won't have to make an interim stop for fuel.
2.. I know we're pretty heavily loaded, but there's plenty of runway.
3.. An intersection takeoff will save us a couple of minutes.
4.. We can beat the squall line if we get out in the next five minutes.
5.. I don't need to check the fuel; I saw the fuel truck by the airplane, and I told line service to fill it up.
6.. This gas smells a little different, but I'm sure it's OK.
7.. Don't worry about those reports of heavy icing. I've flown flights like this and never even picked up a trace.
8.. Crosswind? Relax, I can land the box it came in with more crosswind than this.

Or my famous line to another pilot just before we flew across Memphis to pick up an airplane. We were preflighting an Aeronca Champion that had been sitting out for several weeks and had been drained of what seemed like several gallons of water:"There, that's got all the water."Twenty minutes later the Champ was sitting in a cabbage patch between four houses in a subdivision. The destination airport was about one-half mile away. One of the homeowners, hearing a strange noise in his backyard, walked around the house; the look on his face would have broken up both of us if we hadn't been still staggered by the transition from godlike birdmen to occupants of the muddiest garden in western Tennessee.There was a language problem since it appeared (but was not confirmed) that the gentleman had only recently arrived from some European country. We explained as best we could and thanked him for his wire fence that had slowed us to such an extent that our final touchdown was gentle indeed.In any event, the airplane was moved to the airport, repaired, and later ferried to the final destination.

And a personal case of famous last words that weren't really "last" words (fortunately):
The Combat Information Center indicated that Red Chinese snoopers were flying in the vicinity of the task force and needed interception.We manned our F4U Corsairs, started the engines back in the "pack," and prepared for a quick deck run and vector to intercept the Red airplanes.I was about the fourth or fifth in line and, after starting the engine, found that there was no indication of oil pressure - zilch, nada, nicht. Earlier we had had problems with the oil pressure transmitters; so, after the plane captain had checked the area behind, I elected to run up the engine at a high power setting to check for an unusual oil temperature rise during the (very) few minutes before launch.Then came the personal famous last (fortunately not really last) words "It's only the gauge," I said. (I didn't want to miss all the excitement).The deck run was normal; but during the first two or three minutes on climbout, that oil temperature gauge had my total attention. It turned out to be the gauge only. The snoopers turned back and were not intercepted. There were no hometown newspaper headlines such as "Local boy destroys an entire flight (squadron, group) of Red airplanes! Gets Navy Cross plus 20 or 30 other awards!"And, of course, there are the most famous last words of all:
"I don't think the ceiling is as low as they report. I'll drop down a little lower and see if we can break out."

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