FISHING VEST REDUX

Last week I was pre-flighting one of our ASK-21s, and from that single little pouch in the back cockpit spilled the following: 2 pens, 2 pitot covers (why have two pitot covers if you don’t use either one?), 2 dirty rags, plus NINE barf bags and of course some of the usual litter. None of which I’d be needing. If more than two barf bags were necessary I’d stay on the ground.
Anyway, the article below, which first flew here two years ago, is obviously overdue for a relight.

We were launching in normal conditions with newlyweds cuddled in the back. Ho hum. Then no more than a foot off the ground Bogie the tow pilot released us and zoomed radically up, hanging under the prop to a full-power stall. Our glider flew itself to a stop as we watched his recovery bottom out in a swale below runway level.

So what made Bogie do such a thing? After several minutes pacing the ramp hyperventilating and going to his knees twice, intensive post-flight inspection found a pencil stub fallen below deck into the worst possible space beneath the stick, jamming it full back upon rotation. Bogie saved his own life by remotely crushing that little scrap of wood.

Now wait. What if he’d not released us the instant he sensed trouble? Impossible to know for sure, but he would never have gotten high enough to complete the recovery. And who could guess how it might have worked for us, trying to land on whatever runway was left while Bogie tried to not crash there…

So cutting us loose at the get-go also saved his life!

And that snappy response, did it come from his year of flying low level combat or from crop dusting while in college? Or was it something genetic?

A sea of ‘factors’ refracts forever around each of us like an ocean of mirrors. But one unintended cause is all you need to turn an ordinary day into somebody’s final one. Whoever dropped that pencil stub made it potentially a lethal instrument.

Most pilots these days know what FOD stands for, and it’s not Fussy Old Dude. It’s FOREIGN OBJECT DEBRIS (or any of several other D words). Anything left floating around the cockpit is FOD, whether neglected trash or vital equipment, whether you put it there or have nary a clue. FOD doesn’t need your participation to kill you, only your acquiescence. And the smaller it is the easier it can hide.

Another year, I was finishing up with a one o’clock student when the three o’clock doing an obligatory preflight interrupted our debrief to ask why the stick made the rudder move.

“It doesn’t.”

“But it does,” he assured.

Alright, having landed the bird minutes earlier with no such incongruous behavior, we leaned in to look. Sure enough, when the stick moved the rudder responded. And there was a clunk.

We unscrewed an access panel near the sound and found the little assembly tool we called Lollipop that had long ago gone missing and been replaced. Somehow it found an ideal cranny to hide in through two annual inspections! How many wallops of turbulence, ‘imperfect’ landings and bouncing taxis had it withstood in that time?

Lollipop was still incognito as we rolled to a stop from the prior flight, so what happened while pushing off and parking that impelled it to jump between a bell crank and rudder cable with its business end stuck into a fairlead? Why didn’t that happen months earlier? Why didn’t it happen in flight where Murphy’s Law has fullest effect? Still gives me chills.

Oh there’s more. You familiar with that little hatch behind the aft seat of Grob 103s? It’s where all the important things connect, and is definitely not a storage compartment. Imagine my expression on finding a twenty-pound shot bag in there, lying spread across all the moving parts! Shot bag don’t care.

So here’s a plea for common sense. Clean up after yourself! And while you’re at it don’t stuff the cockpit pouch with everything you own but don’t wanna hold on to. That spawns a FOD nursery and eventually ruins the pouch to boot. If you really want lotsa krapola handy to distract you, consider a fishing vest festooned with pockets. No, seriously. Think of it as a FOD magnet if you like. Sure it looks goofy, so does your hat. Some things are more important.

A fishing vest is comfy enough when you finally wear one – same as a coffin we may suppose. But the vest is still cheaper.