Friday, October 19, 2012



First, before you read this you really should find Tim Minchin's "Confessions" on YouTube and hear the chorus going through your head before your read this.   It seems only appropriate.  This is a very hard post to write so a bit of humor helps.

September 29, 2012 will forever live as a day of infamy in my logbook.  It was the first time both of my children flew with me, and they actually did fairly well.  We departed KPWK in an unnamed Skyhawk and enjoyed the changing foliage as we headed for Janesville, Wisconsin (KJVL).  The plan was the enjoy some lunch at Kealy's and then depart to KDPA to check out the Pilot Shop on the field.

All was going well, and my straight in approach to Runway 30 was very nice.  Despite having to isolate myself from the rest of what was going on in the cockpit, my landing was on center line, smooth, and almost gentle even.  I was quite pleased with myself as we taxied over to the ramp.  Very nice.  Of course, my celebration was about to be overshadowed.

As we taxied to the ramp, there was a fair amount going on.  The Banana and the Boy had both decided that they wanted to take off their headsets, which was fine.  I was looking for where I was "supposed" to park the plane (mistake #1), and became tunnel visioned (mistake #2) as I found a place where the paint was conveniently painted on the ramp.  There was just one problem. The pilot forgot about these silly long things hanging off the side of the plane called wings (mistake #3).  All this coupled with forgetting that there was a temporary fence in place for construction (mistake #4) led to a very unceremonious stop... and a loud "what the hell!?!?!?!?!   Teaching my children new vocabulary was not part of the mission today.  What just happened? 

I looked out the right side of the plane to see that my wing just got into a fight with a pole and lost.  Pole 1 - Wing 0.  (insert Tim Minchin tune here).  Dammit.  (Note: this is about how it reads in my logbook, too). 

As you might imagine, I have been licking my wounds over this one.  A phone call and a picture to the flight school was executed, and the Banana, the Boy and I walked into Kealy's for some fare.  They enjoyed their fries and whatever else they ate.  I had a couple of pancakes, which were actually huge and pretty tasty.  It was really hard to enjoy them. 

So, after an hour I sent my instructor an email message and asked him if it was normal to feel like you should tear up your certificate after such an incident.  His response was priceless, "If you did that while taxiing, you might want to give up your driver's license instead."  Thanks, Jason. I needed that. I've also gotten encouragement from several other folks at the school, including the man who administered my check ride. 

So, they brought up another plane and a few instructors (which cost me a mint, you betcha).  One of them flew the wounded machine back to the hanger while I flew with the other instructor and my children in the other plane.  I was pleased that he was an instructor and we were in another Skyhawk.  I flew the plane back to KPWK and dealt with some squirrley winds and my shaken confidence.  My first go at RWY 34 was long because of the interesting tower instructions of "extend your downwind" and "turn base now" along with a tailwind.  So, I went around and the winds had just shifted and were favoring 12.  Managed to have a reasonable landing there that was on center line and about where I wanted it.  It was a good flight, and it did increase my confidence a little. 

Since then, I did a G1000 checkout in another Skyhawk (that's a whole other post!) and on another day flew from KUGN to Monroe, Wisconsin (KUES) where I did three nice landings.  My landing back at UGN was also reasonable - long because I was a bit too serious about avoiding wake turbulence but with significant crosswinds. 

I guess the good news here is that my landings are much improved in the Skyhawk.  So much for shredding the certificate. 

.... F**** I love.....  (you really gotta play the YouTube video.  Just so you know, there are some potty words here). 


  1. Bless me father, for I have sinned...

    OUCH. If that had happened to me, my kid would have definitely learned some nastier words than the one ending in double hockey sticks. If they flew it home in that condition, I hope that means you just wrinkled some skin and not caused any damage to the structural elements underneath. Glad to hear that the rescue squad was supportive.

    I will confess that, on my way home with my brand new (to me) airplane, I almost pulled (via towbar) a wing into a chain link fence near a fuel pump in Missouri. I was saved from trashing my new ride by (1) a sharp-eyed FBO employee and (2) the large dihedral of the wing. The wingtip cleared the top of the fence by a few inches (not many) and I got the airplane stopped before the fence could dig into the inboard portion. In other words, I was saved from my lack of attention to detail by completely external factors.

    But it taught me a valuable lesson and now you've learned it, too. Glad you got yourself right back up on the horse.

  2. Hi Chris,

    I managed to mutter the rest of the words under my breath, which given the gravity of the situation was probably pretty good self control.

    My trip this weekend was supposed to be in the same plane, and the chief pilot tells me that it's already been repaired, inspected, and deemed good to do. It seems that their mechanic was able to fix it. It was a dent toward the end of the wing so I think that it was a relatively minor issue.

    I'm told that many pilots have stories that are either similar or near-misses. A few days after this happened, a long-time pilot I respect (but won't identify for obvious reasons) told me a story about when he was a young pilot he had forgotten to untie the tail. He could not get the plane to move (wonder why) and eventually applied full power. That broke it loose. He wrote that if someone had not stopped him on his way tot he runway, he would have tried to take off with a chunk of concrete in tow. He noted that he probably would have died had he tried to take off. I had a solid belly laugh over that since it turned out funny rather than tragic. I also was talking to someone about joining a flying club, and confessed this incident since I wanted to know how it would affect membership. He laughed and said I'd get the third degree but other than this it would be fine... then he told a story about how the club and just acquired a new (to them) plane and were about to ferry it back. They came within inches of damaging a wing. Yikes.

    Of course, I wish I had learned these lessons in a less mortifying and cheaper fashion. Getting back on the horse has been crucial to my "recovery."

  3. Oh, I would say that your "it could have been worse tag" is right on.