Learning Experiences

February 2006 Issue

Breaking The Flick

It was a warm summer Saturday, the kind of day that’s perfect for putting in some time on the airplane. This would also be a great chance to wash the bird, which had collected some dust from sitting and some bugs from flying. Besides, what could be a better way to cool off than spraying an airplane with someone else’s water?

After an hour or so of scrubbing and rubbing, most of the bugs were off and all the dust had been washed away. I wiped down the windows, inside and out, and started securing the airplane and the hose I had used.

That’s when I noticed the chamois cloth I use on my cars to dry them after a wash job. Standing back and looking at the plane, I could see the beaded-up water on the wings, cowling and fuselage. The water spots were already forming.

“This won’t do,” I said to myself. “I didn’t put in all that hard work to have it look like its owner doesn’t have the energy to dry it off.” But, between the hot sun and bending from the waist to get at the wings’ underside, I didn’t have the energy any more. That’s when the lightbulb started glowing—I’ll take it around the pattern and blowdry it. “That’s the ticket.”

By this time, I had been all over the airplane—it rarely gets so thorough a preflight—so I climbed in, and ran through the checklists. Soon, I had completed my run-up and told the tower I was ready. It was a busy afternoon, and he was doing as good a job as I have seen handling a wide variety of aircraft and skill levels.

“November 345, I’ll get you out next if you can be ready for an immediate takeoff,” he said.

“No problem,” I responded. “345 is ready.” As the next aircraft landed and the one following reported a two-mile final, I was cleared into position. Once in position, I was cleared to take off as the landing aircraft taxiied off the runway. Smoothly firewalling the throttle and checking the other power levers, I kept the nosewheel on the centerline and started glancing at the other gauges. Manifold pressure is good; rpm is at redline. That’s when I saw the airspeed needle, sitting insolently on its peg.

“Ahhhh...345 is aborting,” I reported as I pulled off the power and firmly applied the brakes.

“546, go around,” the controller said, the frustration in his voice barely concealed. And he had every right to be frustrated—he had the flick worked out so well, and I came along and screwed it up.

Off the runway at the mid-field taxiway, I pulled over into the tiedown area, shut down and climbed out. Walking around to the left wing, I reached down and removed the pitot tube cover—the same cover I had left on while I was washing the airplane so I wouldn’t foul the system with water.

Nowadays, I make it a point to stop, stand back and walk around the airplane, taking a good look at things, before I get in. I’ve forgotten wheel chocks, FOD and the odd pitot tube cover.

You have, too.