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.


Last week was a good one, and better than good for some.  We celebrated the first solo flight of Lulu Ito, our charming guest from Japan!

Now, one more week of unseasonably cool weather is on the way, that will be warmest over the weekend with thermals well up over the mountaintops.  Then by Monday a pulse of energy from the Pacific may bring the season finale of WAVE..  (probably not, but you never know)…



Last Saturday, Sean Eckstein logged the first cross-country soaring flight from Crystal this season. Good on ya, Papa Vic! Somebody had to do it.
This story is one that many pilots could tell, but Sean’s sense of gastronomical irony shows through at the very end.

Sean’s report:
I made it to Olancha. Flying cross country on a marginal day might not earn you a Diamond, but it does challenge you.
The conditions north had the best chance for getting any distance, but cloud coverage would probably shut down sections of the route, so maintaining altitude would be important.
Because it’s still early in the season I launched a little after noon. The climb out in the mountains was not difficult and I climbed to 11.2 K. I wasted a little time trying to get more altitude before leaving the mountains, which cost me. Gliding to my first alternate, Rosamond, I found that there was some strong sink to deal with and arrived low. I had my next alternate Backus (Pontious airport) on glide but wanted a little more altitude because of the sink I had encountered.
I arrived at Backus and found lift that took me to 9 K, that allowed me to get into the mountains where lift was easier to locate and worked my way north to Boomer Ridge near Inyokern. From that point north the mountain range was all in shadow, but I was able to stay above the mountains until my next alternate Coso Dry Lake. That’s where I worked my last thermal before gliding to Olancha, to find only more sink.
I had a good landing at Olancha, treated my driver (6PK) to a fine dinner at one of the many fine desert restaurants, and headed back to Crystal.


Yesterday, May 9, was the best thermal day of the year so far here at Crystal, with cumulus up around 14,000 feet. Tragically it was a Wednesday and no one went soaring. Now we recline into probably the last cool period of this season, trading two-mile high thermals for one more week or so of sweet not-too-hot desert afternoons.
To a graybeard that’s welcome news, but for those who crave suffering, have no doubt, the hot stuff’s a-coming!