Travels with Meg

“Need a ride?”

One of my favorite parts about Sun ‘n Fun is the people I meet when I’m driving around in the golf cart. We get golf carts because we have to cover a lot of territory for the daily paper we put out at the show. If it won’t impact my deadline I’ll give a ride to someone who looks like they could use it. The payment for this ride is that they must accept my business card and agree to call me if they find something in their part of the world that would make a good story for General Aviation News or our sister publication, The Southern Aviator. Doing this I’ve learned about aircraft restorations, events at museums, fly-ins, and attempts to close airports.

This year two of my friends, Marty and Neil Bryant from Washington state, made it to Sun ‘n Fun for the first time. They were not prepared for the amount of walking the show requires. They were in pain and very grateful for a ride in the golf cart. Neil earned his keep by helping deliver newspapers. Marty earned hers by yelling “Contact!” before I started the golf cart. She was riding shotgun and is a good copilot.

I followed the trip to Sun ‘n Fun with a visit home. As I entered the terminal sporting a leather flight jacket and sunglasses, a familiar voice called out “My adventurous one!”

Hello, Dad.

Dad is a retired aerospace engineer. Many of my early memories of my father revolve around aviation. When I was 6, Dad used the scissors on his large Swiss Army knife to demonstrate how to dress down a crack when the wingtip of my balsa airplane splintered. This was followed by an age-appropriate lecture on airfoils. These days many of our father/daughter talks revolve around aerodynamics, the aircraft I have flown, training and aircraft design. This is a great relief to my stepmother whose eyes glaze over when Dad goes off on one of his aerospace tangents. She shoos us off into the corner so we can bond.

I am very much my father’s daughter. Like him, when the temperature gets above 60° I start wearing walking shorts. I also carry a very large Swiss Army knife and have access to multiple flashlights at all times. I forgot my flashlight on a Girl Scout campout when I was 9 and the leaders, noting my father’s reputation for having lots of flashlights, were aghast, as if I had organized a kegger in one of the cabins.

Dad nurtured my tomboy ways. When I was 7 and some remodeling on the house resulted in scrap lumber, I asked Dad if I could use it to build a clubhouse in the backyard. He agreed. He built the frame for me, advised me to measure twice and cut once, then let me have at it. The Fort, as it became known, had a bunk bed, a lockable door, a window, a hatch to climb onto the roof and a periscope. It was everything from a cabin in the woods during the Little House on the Prairie phase to a pirate ship, a submarine and, of course, an airplane. The Fort lasted until I left for college. Mother decreed that since I was about to go to university and she’d put up with it for all those years, it was time to take it down.

Dad and I both have great stores of what some people might say is useless knowledge. Recently at a family function someone asked about the speed of light. Dad rattled it off without a second thought. People were stunned. How could anyone remember that stray fact?

Likewise, when I described a situation at a flight school using a reference to Beowulf, the assistant chief instructor got a look on her face like she was doing math in her head. “I’m not on the bus,” she said, which is her phrase for “I don’t get it.” “Let me Google that and get back to you, Meg. How do you remember this stuff?”

Useful knowledge in the aviation world is the knowledge of procedures. This was drilled home recently when I had the chance to “fly” the Diamond DA42 Flight Training Device at Galvin Flying Service. It is by far the most sophisticated FTD I have ever used. The combination of realistic control feedback, 170° wrap-around screens and sound really give you the feeling of flight.

The best part of using a FTD is that you don’t kill yourself when you’re behind the “aircraft.” This happened to me right off the bat, as my instructor decided to give me runaway trim in a single-pilot operation. The nose pitched up and I was fighting the airplane.

“Remember your training!” he called out.

“I haven’t had THAT training yet!” I yelped, leaning into the stick to avoid a stall. To date my multiengine experience has been 1.7 hours in a Travel Air, .5 in a DC-3 and six hours in a Frasca FTD configured as either a Seminole or a Seneca. It’s been limited to straight and level flight, instrument approaches, engine out procedures, steep turns and stalls. I was a runaway trim virgin, I said.

He quickly ran around to the right side of the FTD. “Pull the circuit breaker and use the manual trim!” he advised, leaning into the cockpit to pull the breaker.

Try that in the real world.

Meg Godlewski is staff reporter for General Aviation News.

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