View Full Version : The Chief

October 19th, 2010, 06:40 AM
Chirp chirp...Hey Lum, you hear that? That boy of yours is getting to be a real hand. He was doin' that all day yesterday...never missed a lick...didn't have the crosswind...all you could hear was one chirp.

Thor, you been watchin' him at the end of this strip? What's he doin'?

Thor Skoglund's countenance darkened a shade and he turned his gaze toward the downwind end of paved runway two four. Then without stalling he faced Lum Grigas.

"Lum, I'll have a talk with him if you think it'll do any good."

Alan was not Thor's son, he was Lum's. Alan's performance with the little 11AC was highly entertaining for some of the locals who hung out at Skoglund. Thor Skoglund, owner and operator of the little country airport, was greatly impressed.

Lum Grigas' voice trembled. "I'm groundin' 'im."

The show would soon be over for the day. Lum walked out to two four and turned around. He tilted his head a little and squinted into the blue. He could hear the Continental change tune when Alan pulled on carburetor heat at late downwind leg. Lum couldn't hold down a gentle upwelling of fatherly pride. In spite of everything, the unspoken words filtered into his brain. That's my boy.

Alan turned onto base leg without dropping below 1,000 feet. Soon he banked for final approach and quickly cut his distance to the black strip of asphalt. He took note of the old silo on his right, and smiled when his uncle's cows broke into a trot at his approach over their favorite grazing the last few days , to which they returned every time he went around. He'd been coming in low all morning, but not this time. They spooked anyway. This time the little Aeronca Chief maintained altitude, and Lum knew what it meant. So did his gut, which tightened into a knot. Alan pulled back the throttle...all the way. The little 65 horsepower Continental coughed and sputtered down to an idle and Lum could hear the whoosh of air around the tiny aircraft as it slipped through quiet country morning over Skoglund.

"Damned fool," Lum muttered. The Chief slipped to the left in a steep decline, then fluttered like it would fall out of the sky when Alan quickly crossed the controls and slipped to the right. The light aircraft trembled and tossed like a cripple out of control, like a mortally wounded fowl struggling to right itself and coming down fast.

"DAMN" shouted Lum. The nose of the Chief had dropped suddenly toward the earth.

Alan eased back on the yoke and caught a glimpse of two four as it passed from the top of the windscreen toward the bottom and disappeared beyond the cowl and the spinning prop. The Chief came down hard this time, much too hard. "DAMN" shouted Alan. "That was no good."

There wasn't any sweet chirp this time as when rubber met asphalt in a well controlled wheel landing. Alan was trying for a traditional three point and his goal was to stop the tail dragger before it reached pavement. Two four began at its perpendicular junction with the grass strip, runway three three. Alan had set himself the task of making his "forced landings" on approach to two four, but touching down on the side of three three, landing across the narrow width of the grass, and stopping before he hit pavement at the threshold of two four, no mean task. Furthermore, he sought to do this from the traffic pattern altitude of 1,000 feet on his final approach, which to an onlooker appeared to be straight down.

The Continental smoothly picked up rpms and the Chief S-turned up two four to its tie down. Alan hit right brake, powered his aircraft onto the grass in a good roll, then hit full left rudder and firewalled the throttle. The Chief spun around and stopped dead center on her tie down.

With innate coordination, Alan unbuckled his seat belt, pulled on the door handle, and jumped onto the grass.

"Hi Pop."

"Boy...you tryin' ta' git yerself kilt?"

Alan half expected it sooner or later. Today was the day. His dad's outstretched palm said it all and Alan relinquished possession of the key to the Aeronca.

The Backward OX
October 19th, 2010, 08:27 AM
Iím confused. If the pilot was trying for a three-pointer, surely that means a tricycle undercarriage. Yet youíre also talking about a tailskid. So which is it?

October 19th, 2010, 03:30 PM
I’m confused. If the pilot was trying for a three-pointer, surely that means a tricycle undercarriage. Yet you’re also talking about a tailskid. So which is it?

The old Aeroncas are tail draggers.

Usually ya' bring a tricycle down on 'er main wheels and let the nose wheel drop. Tricycles are good that way. If you come down a little too hard the worst thing that usually happens is the nose wheel pegs quickly and your mistake is immediately forgiven.

Ya' can land a tail dragger more than one way. Fly 'er right down onto 'er main wheels, (flyin' 'er right onto the ground) (tricky sometimes) cut power, and let the tail wheel drop when she's ready, or stall 'er right at the ground and touch down all three wheels at the same time...the perfect three point landing.

The trouble with tail draggers is bringin' 'em down too hard on the main wheels. If that happens, it forces the tail down and the next thing ya' know, up ya' go again. That's like when you see in the old flicks where the airplane keeps bouncin' down the runway. It keeps hittin' hard on the main wheels and down goes the tail, then up goes the plane.

Consistently making good wheel landings (on the two main wheels) with a tail dragger is an art in itself.

October 19th, 2010, 04:16 PM
Enjoyed every word of it. I'm assuming Alan is 16 or 17, with the mental agility, physical co-ordination, and absolute faith in the physical stamina of the aircraft and in his own immortality that are normal for that age. We hope he learns to use his abilities only when he must, and not as part of a game. Remember the old saying, 'There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots'.

An excellent story told with great skill. A dip of the wing to you.