Dont Be A Dipstick


Being a pilot offers many opportunities to bring joy to non-pilot friends. Many ask for a ride to experience the world GA pilots take for granted. But caution needs to be taken when offering a dream ride. Especially during the preflight.


It was a beautiful day to take my 1942 L-5 up to bore holes over southeast New Mexico. A buddy, who was big in one of those on-line aerial warfare games, always wanted to go up in a WWII aircraft. Well, the L-5 was the best I could offer-there definitely would not be any dogfights. So as I started my preflight, and while trying to answer a multitude of questions, it came time to check the oil.

On a L-5, the dipstick is under the fill cap. So I removed the cap and, after noting I needed oil, I laid the dipstick across the cowling below the windscreen. I retrieved a quart of oil from across the hangar, grabbed a step ladder and funnel, and proceeded to add the oil while constantly answering questions-and feeling proud. Proud that I was blessed with such a fine craft that is a joy to fly, and proud to have a good friend for so many years who was excited to be given a ride.

Everything was going well. We taxied to the runway, did the run-up-all the while answering questions-and proceeded to launch. The questions continued as we accelerated and rotated. Smooth liftoff and now a shallow bank to the right. That was when my passenger heard from the front seat, “Oh, crap!” Not what a first-timer wants to hear from the pilot, especially in an antique aircraft.

Well, remember the dipstick being placed on the cowling below the windscreen? I didnt! Just as we started into our bank an object flashed across my line of sight. You guessed it, “a dipstick.” At that moment, the pride was gone and I felt like a “dipstick.”

“No concern,” I said. “Just my dipstick flying off.” No concern, my foot-you cant just order a new one from the manufacturer these days now can you, Dipstick?

Well the flight was good, my friend had the time of his life, pride was back and luckily there was another L-5 on the field from which I could ah, borrow, a dipstick and have one made at a machine shop.

So I have learned not to converse with my guest during preflight, taxi and takeoff. We visit beforehand, during the flight (to a point) and after landing and parking. I keep my pride and language in check while sharing the joy of flight with others.

-Jay Patton


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