I am writing to you because I need your help to get me bloody
pilot's license back. You keep telling me you got all the right
contacts. Well now's your chance to make something happen for me
because, mate, I'm bloody desperate. But first, I'd better tell you
what happened during my last flight review with the CAA Examiner.
On the phone, Ron (that's the CAA d*#"head), seemed a reasonable sort
of a bloke. He politely reminded me of the need to do a flight
review every two years. He even offered to drive out, have a look
over my property and let me operate from my own strip. Naturally I
agreed to that.
Anyway, Ron turned up last Wednesday. First up, he said he was a bit
surprised to see the plane on a small strip outside my homestead,
because the "ALA"(Authorized Landing Area), is about a mile away. I
explained that because this strip was so close to the homestead, it
was more convenient than the "ALA," and despite the power lines
crossing about midway down the strip, it's really not a problem to
land and take-off, because at the halfway point down the strip
you're usually still on the ground.
For some reason Ron, seemed nervous. So, although I had done the pre-
flight inspection only four days earlier, I decided to do it all
over again. Because the prick was watching me carefully, I walked
around the plane three times instead of my usual two.
My effort was rewarded because the colour finally returned to Ron's
cheeks. In fact, they went a bright red. In view of Ron's obviously
better mood, I told him I was going to combine the test flight with
some farm work, as I had to deliver three "poddy calves" from the home
paddock to the main herd. After a bit of a chase I finally caught
the calves and threw them into the back of the ol' Cessna 172. We
climbed aboard but Ron, started getting onto me about weight and
balance calculations and all that crap. Of course I knew that sort
of thing was a waste of time because calves, like to move around a
bit particularly when they see themselves 500-feet off the ground!
So, it's bloody pointless trying to secure them as you know.
However, I did tell Ron that he shouldn't worry as I always keep the
trim wheel set on neutral to ensure we remain pretty stable at all
stages throughout the flight.
Anyway, I started the engine and cleverly minimized the warm-up time
by tramping hard on the brakes and gunning her to 2,500 RPM. I then
discovered that Ron has very acute hearing, even though he was
wearing a bloody headset. Through all that noise he detected a
metallic rattle and demanded I account for it. Actually it began
about a month ago and was caused by a screwdriver that fell down a
hole in the floor and lodged in the fuel selector mechanism. The
selector can't be moved now, but it doesn't matter because it's
jammed on "All tanks," so I suppose that's Okay.
However, as Ron was obviously a nit-picker, I blamed the noise on
vibration from a stainless steel thermos flask which I keep in a
beaut little possie between the windshield and the magnetic compass.
My explanation seemed to relax Ron, because he slumped back in the
seat and kept looking up at the cockpit roof. I released the brakes
to taxi out, but unfortunately the plane gave a leap and spun to the
right. "Hell" I thought, "not the starboard wheel chock again."
The bump jolted Ron back to full alertness. He looked around just in
time to see a rock thrown by the prop-wash disappear completely
through the windscreen of his brand new Commodore. "Now I'm really
in trouble," I thought...
While Ron was busy ranting about his car, I ignored his requirement
that we taxi to the "ALA," and instead took off under the power lines.
Ron didn't say a word, at least not until the engine started
coughing right at the lift off point, and then he bloody screamed
his head off. "Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!"
"Now take it easy Ron," I told him firmly. "That often happens on
take-off and there is a good reason for it." I explained patiently
that I usually run the plane on standard MOGAS, but one day I
accidentally put in a gallon or two of kerosene. To compensate for
the low octane of the kerosene, I siphoned in a few gallons of super
MOGAS and shook the wings up and down a few times to mix it up.
Since then, the engine has been coughing a bit but in general it
works just fine, if you know how to coax it properly.
Anyway, at this stage Ron seemed to lose all interest in my test
flight. He pulled out some rosary beads, closed his eyes and became
lost in prayer(I didn't think anyone was a Catholic these days). I
selected some nice music on the HF radio to help him relax.
Meanwhile, I climbed to my normal cruising altitude of 10,500-feet.
I don't normally put in a flight plan or get the weather because, as
you know getting FAX access out here is a friggin' joke and the
weather is always "8/8 blue" anyway. But since I had that near miss
with a Saab 340, I might have to change me thinking on that.
Anyhow, on leveling out, I noticed some wild camels heading into my
improved pasture. I hate bloody camels, and always carry a loaded
303, clipped inside the door of the Cessna just in case I see any of
We were too high to hit them, but as a matter of principle, I
decided to have a go through the open window. Mate, when I pulled
the bloody rifle out, the effect on Ron, was friggin' electric. As I
fired the first shot his neck lengthened by about six inches and his
eyes bulged like a rabbit with myxo. He really looked as if he had
been jabbed with an electric cattle prod on full power. In fact,
Ron's reaction was so distracting that I lost concentration for a
second and the next shot went straight through the port tyre. Ron
was a bit upset about the shooting (probably one of those pinko
animal lovers I guess) so I decided not to tell him about our little
problem with the tyre.
Shortly afterwards I located the main herd and decided to do my
fighter pilot trick. Ron had gone back to praying when, in one
smooth sequence, I pulled on full flaps, cut the power and started a
sideslip from 10,500-feet down to 500-feet at 130, knots indicated
(the last time I looked anyway) and the little needle rushed up to
the red area on me ASI. What a buzz, mate! About half way through
the descent I looked back in the cabin to see the calves gracefully
suspended in mid air and mooing like crazy. I was going to comment to
Ron on this unusual sight, but he looked a bit green and had rolled
himself into the fetal position and was screamin' his freakin' head
off. Mate, talk about being in a bloody zoo. You should've been
there, it was so bloody funny!
At about 500-feet I leveled out, but for some reason we kept
sinking. When we reached 50-feet, I applied full power but nothin'
happened. No noise no nothin'. Then, luckily, I heard me
instructor's voice in me head saying "carb heat, carb heat." So I
pulled carb heat on and that helped quite a lot, with the engine
finally regaining full power. Whew, that was really close, let me
Then mate, you'll never guess what happened next! As luck would have
it, at that height we flew into a massive dust cloud caused by the
cattle and suddenly went I.F. bloody R, mate. BJ, you would have
been really proud of me as I didn't panic once, not once, but I did
make a mental note to consider an instrument rating as soon as me
gyro is repaired (something I've been meaning to do for a while
(now). Suddenly Ron's elongated neck and bulging eyes reappeared. His
Mouth opened wide, very wide, but no sound emerged. "Take it easy,"
I told him, "we'll be out of this in a minute." Sure enough, about a
minute later we emerged, still straight and level and still at 50-feet.
Admittedly I was surprised to notice that we were upside down, and I
kept thinking to myself, "I hope Ron didn't notice that I had
forgotten to set the QNH when we were taxiing." This minor
tribulation forced me to fly to a nearby valley in which I had to do
a half roll to get upright again.
By now the main herd had divided into two groups leaving a narrow
strip between them. "Ah!" I thought, "there's an omen. We'll land
right there." Knowing that the tyre problem demanded a slow
approach, I flew a couple of steep turns with full flap. Soon the
stall warning horn was blaring so loud in me ear that I cut it's
circuit breaker to shut it up, but by then I knew we were slow
enough anyway. I turned steeply onto a 75-foot final and put her
down with a real thud. Strangely enough, I had always thought you
could only ground loop in a tail dragger but, as usual, I was proved
Halfway through our third loop, Ron at last recovered his sense of
humor. Talk about laugh. I've never seen the likes of it. He
couldn't stop. We finally rolled to a halt and I released the
calves, who bolted out of the aircraft like there was no tomorrow.
I then began picking clumps of dry grass. Between gut wrenching fits
of laughter, Ron asked what I was doing. I explained that we had to
stuff the port tyre with grass so we could fly back to the
homestead. It was then that Ron, really lost the plot and started
running away from the aircraft. Can you believe it? The last time I
saw him he was off into the distance, arms flailing in the air and
still shrieking with laughter. I later heard that he had been
confined to a psychiatric institution - poor bugger!
Anyhow mate, that's enough about Ron. The problem is I got this
letter from CASA withdrawing, as they put it, my privileges to fly;
until I have undergone a complete pilot training course again and
undertaken another flight proficiency test.
Now I admit that I made a mistake in taxiing over the wheel chock
and not setting the QNH using strip elevation, but I can't see what
else I did that was a so bloody bad that they have to withdraw me
flamin' license. Can you?
Ralph H. Bell
Mud Creek Plantation