Father and Daughter Flight 700 miles to an orthodontic appointment!

 

A Father's Reflections

It was to be my second significant cross-country flight in my Bakeng Duce, a nifty plane I had recently acquired from its builder in Indiana. I planned to fly from my new home in central Kansas to my former residence in Monroe, Louisiana. I would be taking my daughter some seven hundred miles for an orthodontic appointment.

Given the modest size of the airplane, we were forced to travel light; each was allowed a small gym bag. They were stowed away in the center wing section, in a compartment originally designed for a second fuel tank, later judged unnecessary by the builder. The cowl tank provided two hours of fuel plus reserve, more than enough for the combined demands of two nervous bladders. A second compartment beneath the turtledeck provided room for a quart of oil, some tie downs, an extra bag, and a shaving kit. As the sun began to warm the cool, wet grass of the morning, we were underway.

My daughter, then 11, amused herself by looking down at the passing landscape through a small opening in the floor of her cockpit where the landing gear attaches to the fuselage. A visual learner, she was enthralled.

As the flight progressed, the sun lent more and more of its energy to our slightly chilled bodies, a welcome compensation for the glare in the windscreen of the southeast bound, open-cockpit craft. The mostly flat Kansas terrain offered relative security in the event of a forced landing, but the possibility of such an occurrence scarcely crossed my mind. The engine purred.

The first leg of the flight was uneventful, at least for the occupants of my airplane. But upon landing for our first refueling stop, I noticed a long streak of what appeared to be engine oil sketched upon the taxiway. Looking closely at another aircraft on the ramp, the explanation was clear. The big Cessna had blown a cylinder. Fortunately, for the pilot and his wife, it had taken place at six thousand feet - right above the airport! We all chatted for awhile, thanking our Creator, not only for the gift of flight, but also for His providential care. Refueled and spiritually refreshed, my daughter and I began the second leg of our journey.

It is difficult to describe the beauty of the Ozark Mountains in the green months of early summer, but they are something to behold. I found myself day dreaming behind the controls, looking down, wondering what activities were taking place in the occasional villages below.

As I returned my gaze to the front of the cockpit, the view through the windscreen suddenly went blank; it was totally obscured, covered with an opaque liquid! My first thought took me back to the scene we had witnessed only an hour or so before. Was it engine oil? I checked my instruments ... oil pressure: 60, temperature: normal. Could it be a fuel leak? No, fuel would have immediately evaporated from the screen. I am embarrassed to admit the thought that next came to mind. Was it possible that a commercial airliner had pulled the "flush" lever on its waste tank? For such a detritus missile to strike a small, moving target like me would be the equivalent to the odds of winning the Power Ball lottery or being struck by lightning. Hmm ... lightning does occasionally strike airplanes.

Whatever it was, I had to land, for without thrusting my head into the wind stream, I could see nothing ahead. Besides, I needed an explanation for the unknown phenomenon before I could confidently fly on.

Looking down, I noticed that, like my recent acquaintances that had been flying the crippled Cessna, I too was right over an airport! A quick glance at the chart confirmed that it was Ozark, Arkansas. I chopped the power and entered the pattern, cheeks to the wind. I must admit to the reader that it was not the best of landings. Okay, I bounced it in. But what did you expect, I couldn't see a thing! I taxied to an aircraft maintenance facility, leaned the engine to a stop, and took a deep breath.

 

 

"Sweetheart," I said to my daughter in the front cockpit, "we're going to stop for a few minutes and check things out." There was no response. Loosening my harness, I swung myself up and out of the rear cockpit and approached the front seat. "What's wrong, honey?" My daughter sat transfixed, staring into empty space. Speechless, she appeared to be in shock. Only then was the mystery solved. My beautiful daughter's cheeks, normally rosy with the exuberance of youth, were now covered, like the heretofore-unexplained windscreen of my cockpit, with the contents of her stomach!

Happily, the local FBO had some Dramamine tablets, and after a brief respite, we continued our journey. After all, we had an important orthodontic appointment ... and the sky was beckoning.

The Daughter's Story

It was a nice day for a flight. Of course, leaving the house at 4:00 A.M. and flying 700 miles to an orthodontic appointment isn't exactly my cup of tea, but I do like flying, and if I had to get up early it should at least be to travel in nice weather. As my dad took off in his open-cockpit Bakeng Duce airplane, the sun was rising, and I was astonished at the beauty it lended to the landscape. I had never flown during this particular time period, and so the sharpness of every tree's shadow and the color changes in the valleys and hilltops were new to me. Of course, as the morning rolled on, my biological time clock was catching up with me, and I had to doze off and on, though it isn't very easy to do when there's a very loud propeller two feet in front of your nose. But I managed, and was enjoying the scenery between snoozes when my ears started buzzing.

This is to be expected in an open cockpit, but the particular pitch in my ears was much higher than usual. Of course, as soon as I noticed it, the sound got continually louder until it was annoying me so much that I barely felt the extremely turbulent activity going on in my stomach. You can guess what's coming. Before you could say "Uh-oh" my stomach heaved, and up came the bacon and eggs I'd eaten that morning.

I ought to point out something here. I'd always had a very steady paunch, but I had also taken it for granted that, in the event of an upset stomach, you just lean over the side. Not true. For one thing, the seat is too low to really lean over the side comfortably, and whatever you expelled would get caught in the plane's wind stream and land in the pilot's face. If you don't lean over, the expellation goes into the prop, out of the prop, and heads straight back toward you. Hee hee.

I did not have the wits to duck. It seemed like an eternity before Dad landed (I only figured out what he thought later) and found me staring bleary-eyed into space, trying hard not to upchuck at the thought of what my present appearance was, or what the rest of the day would be like. The killer is, I did not have a change of clothes. There were four more hours to go. Ouch!

For the rest of the day I slept. I was miserable. We landed a couple more times, and I vomited every time. While Dad refueled, I sprawled on the warm pavement and slept. When he woke me up, I got back in the plane.

I survived, needless to say, and I still fly. Oh, by the way, when I exited the aircraft I noticed an object that had been in the front pocket all along.

Airsickness bag.

by Mark Kayser and daughter Talley. Copyright 2001 by Mark Kayser.