There is precious little we can accomplish in life entirely on our own. We need help, or encouragement, or correction from others. And thank goodness. Life would be awfully lonely if we all went around all the time being entirely self-sufficient and self-contained.
I’ve written a number of books over the course of my career, fiction and non-fiction. Yet, for all the study and research and typing and imagining, they wouldn’t exist in the marketplace if it weren’t for my friend, fellow pilot, and super-duper Beta reader, Joni M. Fisher. She’s helped me hone the writing, kept me on track when things got dicey, and generally gave me the nudge I needed to finish and publish with a modicum of pride.
Incidentally, Joni writes for General Aviation News from time to time and has recently released the first of her Compass Crimes series, South of Justice. I’m just sayin’…
We need help now and then. And if we’re decent people, we generally get it. That’s true in life. It’s true in aviation as well.
Not long ago it became clear to me the propeller on my C-172 wasn’t in top shape. It looked as if it had been bolted to a farm tractor and used to plow up the soil for more acres than were good for it. Paint was missing, surface corrosion was evident, and the pitch didn’t appear to be as it was when it left the factory. That suggested it was overhaul time.
Yes, even fixed pitch propellers need maintenance now and again. I’m not sure most aircraft owners are aware of that, but it’s true.
So I made the not-so-painful decision to remove the prop from the crank flange and approximately $600 from my wallet in order to have the thing overhauled and brought back to like-new standards.
The problem with this simple decision is that I do not have the super-powers necessary to remove and reinstall a propeller myself. I needed help. So I asked, and I got it.
My buddy Andy Salter, the finest Englishman in America as far as I’m concerned, drove over to meet me at the hangar just as I was cutting the safety wire off the mounting bolts. The spinner was already off, the myriad screws and washers were stored in a blue plastic tub, and it was time to do the real removal.
With Andy’s help the bolts came out, the prop came off (with the spacer still attached) and it all went into the back of my boxy little import for the short drive to Aircraft Propeller Works where things would happen to my worn and weathered prop that I just wouldn’t want to witness in person.
One week later I retrieved a propeller that looked for all the world like a brand new piece of aluminum. The paint was pristine, the curve of the metal was intoxicatingly exact. All evidence of wear and tear was gone. I felt good.
The problem was, putting the propeller back on would take more than two hands, and unfortunately, two were all I had with me at the time.
Enter Dennis Kochan. A retired Piedmont pilot, Dennis is as aeronautical as they come. A CFI, and an A&P with an IA, Dennis has skills. His signature is in my logbook right next to my taildragger endorsement. I’m lucky to have him for a friend.
Perhaps most pertinent to this situation, his hangar is no more than 100 yards from my own, and so I asked for an assist. Dennis agreed. Minutes later he arrived by bicycle, torque wrench and safety wire at the ready.
It’s summer in Florida, so sweat flowed freely as the propeller went on and it’s possible, I’m not saying it happened, but it’s possible, we had some momentary concern about whether the prop was indexed or not, and what the correct positioning of it might be as we fiddled with the spacer, the bulkhead, the spinner and such.
Dennis supervised with style, guiding me through the safety wiring process (not my favorite phase of any project) with thoughtful insights like, “You’re not using enough four-letter words.”
I responded in kind, not quite gleefully announcing, “Well, I’m bleeding so I must be doing something right.”
The point is this. Whether you’re hanging a prop, doing an oil change, learning a new piloting skill, or even writing a book, you could use a hand now and then.
Then again, you could just as easily lend one. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of the relationship, and both can be satisfying in their own way. I’m forever grateful for the assistance I’ve gotten from friends, as well as for the friends I’ve made while receiving assistance. That’s to say nothing of taking the opportunity to repay those favors when I can.
In these dark days of political divisiveness, social unrest, and economic distrust, let’s commit ourselves as aviation enthusiasts to be the white-hat wearing good guys who extend a hand in friendship whenever some poor unfortunate stranger needs it. Helping out isn’t nearly as hard as it might seem.
And you never can tell, the person you help just might have a refrigerator full of beer and cold pizza in the back of the hangar, and a pre-disposition for sharing.
You could do worse.