Monday, September 29, 2008

Clean Flying Down at the Grass Roots of GA...

The jaunty little Cessna 120 occupied a front space in the maintenance hangar at Dead Cow International, so anyone familiar with the pecking order knew this airplane was the top priority in the shop -- as opposed to the planes behind the 120: a Cessna 180 and an Ercoupe 415A.

A mutual flying friend, struggling with illness, old age and finances, sold his personal 180 to the Leprechaun after years of using it as a jump and photo plane. The 180 arrived at Dead Cow with something north of 65 squawks to resolve, in need of some exterior paint and TLC, and a whole lot of patience. Now, with the 180's physical rehabilitation complete, it awaits only a couple of items: completion of all the paperwork -- "That's my next project," said The Leprechaun -- which is the same status of the Ercoupe, which belongs to another elderly aviator friend. And some of its work and paperwork are of dubious validity. So The Leprechaun has his work cut out for him with those.

That's why they sit far back in the hangar. We call that last spot, farthest from the hangar door, "The Well of the Souls," a phrase coined by a known aviator who suffered through some major repair of his own plane for about seven months -- six of which back in The Well of the Souls. We've always theorized that the coiner was a fan of Indiana Jones and could relate to the remoteness and isolation Indy and his girfriend experienced surrounded by snakes in that film's Well of the Souls.

There's some synergies here...

So planes like the jaunty little 120 always stand out to visitors. We know it's not long for the shop, in for something as minor as a mag timing check or an annual, and headed back out the door to the runway as quickly as The Leprechaun and crew can manage it.

So it was with this jaunty little 120 Cessna. It seemed to speak to fun, simple flying through its bright-white paint, adorned with a single red trim stripe down the length of the fuselage, across the top and back up to the cowl again on the opposite side.

After only four days -- four days because of a wait for a part -- the owner arrived to reclaim his jaunty little 120. That the day of freedom was here was apparent pulling into the Dead Cow parking lot. The 120 gleamed sparkling clean in the evening sunlight sitting on the ramp in front of the open hangar door. Test run, test flown, paperwork done, she seemed as anxious to soar across the green-gold landscape of early Fall and after a suitable amount of trips between car and cockpit, the owner seemed to have all in hand to help the jaunty little 120 make its escape.

The owner turned the prop a couple of blades, belted in, locked the door and turned the key; with hardly a second blade passing by, those 85 horses in the little Continental came to life and settled into the low rhythm of its idle, while the owner contacted Clearance Delivery, obtained a squawk code and taxied to the departure end of 17 after first making a 360 turn to check that the pattern was clear. That Citation X headed to the arrival for ICT was of no consequence, so up the runway he went, contacted the tower, and started his take-0ff run...

...from the grass strip parallel to Dead Cow's paved 17/35...

"He likes his flying grass roots," The Leprechaun noted...

Grass roots, it occured to me, right down to the grass strip.

"Sure is a clean little bird," a voice said aloud.

"The cleanest...true grass roots," said the Leprechaun. "Since we're not flying, why don't you buy us a beer," he said quietly. Two bottles of a crisp, clean lager opened, we settled into the shade of the hangar to watch the jaunty little 120 ply its way downwind to its homefield...just in time to see Dead Cow's resident flight instructor, a not-so-jaunty little 150, turn final.

Happy little airplanes at a sleepy little airport with good company and a Beer:30 solution...

Grass Roots gets no better.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, you've painted a superb word picture. Almost elegiac. Sorry to read about the prior owner's hardships, but it's good to know the plane has has landed (I hesitate to say fallen) in worthy hands.

Too bad those 120s don't qualify for LSA. I'd be firmly camped on Trade-a-Plane if they did. (Although I confess I tend to vow true love to the latest taildragger I see, regardless of make and model.)


2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your wordsmithing, Dave. When I lived in ICT, my office was just off the end of Dead Cow over on 30th St W, and I'd see all manner of flying machines going in and out.

The 180 belonged to an old friend over in Cheney who allowed me to rebuild my TriPacer in his hanger back in 1991-1992. I talk to him occasionally still, and keep up with his son, who's quite well known in EAA circles. I fantasized about buying 22X several times, and have ridden in it a bit. Also have some video of Leo in the cockpit and from the ground.

Thanx for the memories.

Lake Norman NC

1:21 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home