Way back in the early Eighties my eagerness for any chance to fly any glider got me involved in several lengthy aero tows ferrying planes I’d never seen before from one unfamiliar place to another. Those summer afternoons trended bumpier by the hour, predictably, and one time about halfway along I noticed the port wing of that particular 2-33 flexing much more than its equally loaded counterpart. This kind of observation, mid-flight, has a way of making you think.
About lots of things. First, pique at the seller for pawning off junk on an unsuspecting colleague. Or if the buyer knew about it, fair enough, but then what about… me? The more I ponder this decades later, the less ‘pique’ seems a strong enough term. But who was at fault, or even at risk right then, was less important than having the aircraft hold together for at least a couple more hours.
That’s what I thought about most.
No surprise, the elbow was right where that big aluminum strut attaches. Inboard of there even a busted wing is stiff as a bridge. Rivets at that seam appeared the same as their equivalents under the other wing, but the light being so different on either side, they were nearly impossible to compare. Like proving a negative.
Suppose the damage is not acute, I mused hopefully; even if it’s been this way for years, it’s still critical isn’t it? Shouldn’t someone know about this? Never have I been so impatient to get back on the ground.
Finally, at some sweet grass strip adjacent to a country club, I tried to put personal feelings aside while making a righteous fuss over that floppy wing. The guy handling paperwork seemed unconcerned, so I grabbed the tip and shook it up and down, boing boing boing. You could even hear something going on in there! Made me queasy, and caused even Easy Ed the tow pilot (who usually shrugged off any thing about gliders) to wince. But apparently it impressed no one else…
Okay then, I told myself, caveat emptor! I wouldn’t be flying it again, anyway. Time to hop behind Ed in the Bird Dog and race the sunset home.
Never saw nor heard of that broke-winged bird again, knew nothing of its troubled story beforehand, and only a tidbit of its more uncertain history since. I could have tried to keep track of how its new owner(s) fared, but this was before the internet and I had no idea where to start.
That stuff’s easy these days. When ultimately I did look up the N-number from an old logbook, it had been deregistered… Did they decide it wasn’t worth fixing and declare it totaled, or fly it until it came apart and was destroyed, along with maybe a victim or two? No, a little more research revealed that a couple years after my day with it the aircraft was reregistered in Canada, so its ident is now some jumble of letters, no numbers. Did it ever get fixed? One would hope so, but given what we’d seen already, who knows.
Uh oh, now you’ve got me pawing through those dusty old logs for any number of other grizzled jalopies I toiled in back when, wondering what they’re up to now. Looks like this could take some time. Cancel all my appointments.