Friday, August 2, 2013

7SW (Seven Sierra Whiskey) IV

Continued from previous post. (Some people, including my wife and Cedarglen, are impatient with this story and want me to wrap it up.)


On Monday I got edgy and texted Dave in Alaska asking him if he had presented the check to the widow. The very act of texting or e-mailing Dave is an anxious endeavor, as he usually only responds once a week and sometimes ignores your question, preferring rather to tell you about something totally unrelated that has caught his fancy. But that time I got lucky. His immediate answer: “I’m having lunch with her now. She says thanks and she hopes you enjoy the plane. I’ll put the BOS [bill-of-sale] in the mail to you today.”

Whew! Unbelievably relieved feeling. The plane was finally mine. But there were more annoying details to attend. My check pilot was also the air park’s administrator. He e-mailed and said I would need to send him a certificate of insurance before I could operate the plane at the private air park. Did it.

I then took off for a Sao Paulo trip and on the layover my mechanic dropped an e-mail bomb. He was available only for Monday and would have to leave town after that for another job. I e-mailed back: “We’ve got to finish that inspection Monday. If we don’t, no other mechanic will pick up where you left off. They will all insist on a completely new inspection. I’ve got no plan B.”

This news troubled me all the way back from the deep South. The potential for a colossal goat rope to develop was looming. I needed everything to go perfect to make this work.

I knew I would return from Sao Paulo on Saturday morning at 5am. The company was obligated to give me 24 hours off after the international trip, so I would not be eligible to fly until 5am Sunday morning. Fat chance they would give me a 1-day trip Sunday.

Wrong again.

Saturday afternoon I got assigned a run from Houston to LAX on Sunday with a deadhead back to home base. This spoiled my plans to arrive at Dave’s at a comfortable hour Sunday afternoon and rest up for Monday. I bolted from the deadhead and caught a Southwest flight to Tucson, arriving at 7pm. Dave, having arrived home from his Alaska fishing trip, picked me up and told me he would be extremely busy at the office the next few days. He would lend me a spare truck and open the hangar. The rest was up to me. We dined on Moose roast Sunday night and drank Moose Drool beer. I don't like Moose Drool beer, but I bragged on it to please my hosts. (Dave and Marsha do not follow Decision Height, so I think I'm safe.)

Monday morning the mechanic, Mark, showed up right on time. His first words were, “We’ll get this done today. Even if I discover some minor items that can be corrected later, I’ll still sign it off and trust you to take care of them.” I liked him instantly.

I set out doing everything Mark asked me—taking off inspection panels, removing seats, wheel fairings, prop spinner and anything else he needed done to stay ahead of his inspection. Along the way I learned some interesting things about Mark that increased my trust in him and convinced me I had stumbled on the right guy for this job. He was a third generation aircraft mechanic. He lived on a dirt airstrip north of where we were—not nearly as nice an air park as Dave’s. Most of the residents at his air park lived in double-wides, as did he. But he was happy with that. He owned two airplanes, one a twin. I like it when my mechanic is also a pilot. But he was much more.

Mark had retired as a USAF tech sergeant at nearby Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. That was the same base I was stationed at decades ago when I was flying A-7s. He was a C-130 flight engineer. Then after his retirement he went to work as an independent aircraft mechanic, but he also took a part time job with a company that flew civilian C-130s. One

Civil registry C-130
day the company boss said, “Mark, you’re an experienced C-130 flight engineer and mechanic, and you’re a licensed multi-engine pilot. How would you like to get a type-rating in the C-130 and eventually fly as a captain for us?”

Wow! How many people get such an opportunity? I’d say there are only a handful of pilots in the entire world who have C-130 type-ratings and never flew one as a military pilot. Mark jumped at the opportunity. His most memorable mission: Flying the C-130 on search patterns for debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. So, now his company needed him Tuesday to fly a C-130 mission for the Marine Corps at Yuma. Now I understood. Now I trusted him even more. We worked like mad men for 12 hours, with a short lunch break. He knew his stuff.

Soon I pointed out the “rocket rod” tailwheel assembly and told him about what the other two pilots had recommended—that I get rid of it. He had no opinion on that but said we could do it if I had the parts. I presented him with the parts Karl had mailed to me. Immediately there was a problem. The tailwheel turning fork had only one arm. I needed two arms to match the original installation. He straightened and looked at me. “How long will it take you to get that part?” I shrugged, knowing it would be 2-3 days at the quickest. “Well,” he said, sighing, “what do you want to do?” I stared at it for a while, and finally said, let’s keep it on and see what happens. 

Mark thoroughly went over the RV and gave me some important pointers in taking care of it. At 7pm he declared the RV airworthy and signed the logs. I paid him and went to Dave’s for Moose fajitas and the last of Dave’s Moose Drool stash.

I went to bed exhausted thinking about all there was to do tomorrow: check out in the plane, fly it to Ryan Field for its pitot-static check (what if it failed and needed more work?), and then practice, practice, practice landings in the desert crosswinds. My "check pilot" only had an hour to spend with me. I would quickly find myself solo and was more than a little apprehensive about tomorrow’s checkout with the tailwheel, the crosswinds, and the dreaded rocket rod assembly. The thought of damaging the plane nearly nauseated me. Thankfully I was so tired I didn’t dwell on it much and drifted to sleep.
(Stay tuned.) 
A&P mechanic Mark checks out the RV-6
The 6 gets its pitot-static system check