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Days of Wings and Engunes - part three

Days of Wings and Engunes - part three

By PeterHunter

Days of Wings and Engines - part three
Peter Hunter

Half-way through the barrel roll and things were going well - an upside-down Buckinghamshire portrayed as a patchwork of yellow, green and brown dissected by black and grey veins smudged only by the occasional car.
Then I was suddenly flat on my back - suspended by safety harness and the half-G or so maintained by the centrifugal force at the top of the barrel roll. The sudden, unscheduled and unexpected manoeuvre, my left hand still attached to the control stick - resulted in puling the aircraft into a flick roll which developed into a fully-fledged spin. Now- instead of seeing the ground through the Perspex roof of the canopy - the windscreen in front of me was filled with the rapidly spinning vision of the home county earth...
… so much like a rotating Google map - the countryside rapidly getting closer… The rear of my car-type folding seat had collapsed, broken… I was unable to sit upright unless I supported myself with my right arm braced against the right-hand, the passenger seat - not the best way of practising spin recovery in an airplane I had never spun before…
Back now in straight and level flight, I checked all my readings. The accelerometer read high, but not over the Falco’s G-limit, so all was good… No -problems - at least until I returned to the airfield where the handicap of one using only my left hand - the necessity of using my right on to support my self upright…
…. might prove embarrassing.
Realising I could let go for a few moments using my back muscles to remain upright was a help, but the main problem was unlike more modern machines, the Falco’s brakes were operated by a single bar situated between the rudder pedals, rather than the conventional two pedal brake arrangement.
Also, it required quite a lot of pressure to be effective…
The collapsed seat back - would not permit me to use much pressure.
It seemed to me time to call on some of the benefits I paid for with my monthly landing fees and parking charges.
‘Booker Tower - this is Golf Foxtrot Alfa Lima Charlie...’ I transmitted.
‘Lima Charlie - go ahead.’ the control tower reply.
‘Lima Charlie - small problem... My set back’s collapsed and I can't fully reach the controls… so could you have the crash wagon stand by in case I slew off the runway?’
Unknown to me at the time, my wife, Celia, was flying circuits in a Cessna 150 with her instructor, an ex-RAF Group Captain. Later… according to the instructor, she had stayed calm and unconcerned.
I was proud of her…
In my twenty plus years owning Golf Foxtrot Lima Charlie, she never once tried to kill me, the airplane not my wife - although there were times… two or three engine blow-ups, partial engine failures as valves destroyed themselves against pistons during race practice - two instances where the nose undercarriage leg failed - little things as she tested me and kept me on my mettle - from becoming complacent.
In human terms she was the perfect lover - always demanding, attention seeking - requiring the utmost care and sensitivity.
For me the perfect airplane…
… but never a serious threat…

© Peter Hunter 2012

Extract from Peter Hunter's auto portrayal Too Many Miles From A Land Of Rivers

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17 May, 2012

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