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