Out of the Mouths of Babes
by george rosel
Last summer my wife Connie and I took our five grandchildren on a one-week vacation. We had a wonderful time exploring the Arches National Park near Moab Utah. Hiking, biking, fishing, and open campfires consumed most of our days and evenings.
Our grandchildren are wonderfully disciplined; they get along with each other very well. Ranging from ages 11-15 years old, they complement their parents in every way.
It was one evening over a nice dinner at a great restaurant that gave me the inspiration for this article. In the company of my grandchildren, my perspective of safe flying came full circle in just a matter of seconds. (Just like situations that happen while flying our magic carpets at 230-350 kts.)
While ordering our evening dinner, I cautioned the young group to make sure they could eat everything they ordered. As is often the case, children's hunger pains are bigger than their brains—and my pocketbook; growing boys tend to choose the most expensive and largest items!
It was at that moment when one of my grandsons said very loudly, "Calm down Grandpa and quit being so cheap!"
Now, I love my grandchildren and it took all my willpower to do just that—stay calm!
The more I thought about how disrespectful my grandson's comment had been, the more my blood began to boil. My precious grandchildren don’t speak to me that way! Lancair drivers tend toward large egos with class “A” personalities, and we often and quickly overreact. All I could think was, "I don’t need to be schooled by a youngster!"
As I sat there while all this going through my mind, the table remained very quiet, with everyone waiting anxiously to see how grandpa would react.
It was during that moment of reflection I remembered Connie's remarks in Goodland, KS following an emergency descent and landing after the window blew out in our Lancair 4P Turbine. We were enroute from Denver to Kansas City at FL 250, near the Class B airspace rings around Denver International. It was a very cold, clear February day. The air was thin with the OAT at -44°C. We were cruising along, auto-pilot engaged, temps and pressures perfect, and the cabin altitude was at a comfortable 9500 ft.
That's when I heard a loud CRACK!
Connie said, "George, did you hear that?"
Once safely on the ground, before I had time to digest what had just happened my wife said, "George, thanks for getting us on the ground safely. How did you stay so calm!?"
To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t felt calm. In fact, it wasn’t until I shut down the engine that I realized my knees were knocking wildly and my body was shaking out of control. The emotional impact was so powerful. The line boy began speaking to me through the now open window on my side. “Sir, will you be needing any fuel today?” It was so odd that I could hear him perfectly and I hadn’t even depressurized the door seal! It was then that I had to grab my knees with both hands to stop them from shaking. Calm? Sure, you bet! That’s what my wife thought? Without exactly saying it she just told me that I was Superman! I didn’t say a word.
An explosive decompression at 25,000 feet doesn't leave much time to think. At least, I didn’t think. My training kicked in. (Thank you HPAR, EPS, and LOBO!) It was very loud, and very cold, and I was no longer able to communicate with Denver Center.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday” was my immediate response (not knowing if anyone could hear me). Transponder set to 7700. Power full aft. NRST airport. Emergency decent and oxygen. Watch airspeed. Prop full (that’s my speed brake in a turbine). 4500 fpm. Get down, get down, get down! Watch for over-speed.
What!? Stay calm? ... Calm down!? I didn’t have time to stay calm, I was too busy. Where was my grandson now?
If you stick with flying long enough, it's almost certain that at some point you will need your emergency training. That’s why we do it: initial and recurrent training that is. Emergencies happen, and it’s just a matter of time until they come knocking on your cockpit window—literally for some of us! Without training from an experienced instructor in your type of aircraft you’re taking a great risk; you may be unable to function when that inevitable emergency occurs.
LOBO’s number one commitment to its members is safety. We pledge to you that we will do everything we can to provide technical support and training at all of our functions. LOBO isn’t really an acronym for Lancair Owners and Builders Organization. It actually stands for SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY!
When it comes to maintenance and training, don’t be cheap! And calm down when it comes time to pay the bill. Nothing on an airplane is cheap (just don’t tell your spouse!) and that includes training.
Find a good certified flight instructor that is experienced in your type of Lancair aircraft. We fly very special machines designed to be sexy and fast. They also tend to be unforgiving of mistakes, and that's where specialized training can help. F-15 or a Mitsubishi flight experience is not qualification training for a Lancair. Once you've completed initial qualification training, stay current with an annual recurrent training check ride. Visit LOBO's website often as we continually update a list of instructors willing to use a common syllabus for your type of Lancair. Please understand all of these instructors have full-time jobs and provide this training on the side. They are dedicated individuals committed to specialized training for the Lancair fleet and we must realize this is not their primary source of income. In fact, they sometimes lose money taking time off from their real job to do training. Like my grandson said, if we want to keep a cadre of qualified instructors for the fleet "don't be cheap" when it comes time to pay the bill.
CALM DOWN and don’t be CHEAP when it comes time to maintaining your machines as well. Our airplanes will most always talk to you before something fails. Look for trends, noise changes, and fluid leaks, etc. Even (especially?) if you are the builder, have an experienced mechanic or other qualified person look over your work. Remember these are experimental aircraft and no airplane is the same.
I encourage you to network with fellow Lancair owners and builders. The investment is priceless. I also encourage you to always attend our LOBO events. This year's Landing is going to be the best ever in Las Vegas, October 15th - 18th. But before Vegas is EAA AirVenture. A trip to Oshkosh certainly deserves to be on your bucket list! Don’t forget our banquet, scheduled this year for Thursday, July 23. These functions are not CHEAP but are a lot of fun and there is always a lot to be learned. After all, isn’t this really the reason we fly?
Good intentions or not, my grandchildren taught me a valuable lesson that evening while around the dinner table in Moab Utah.
While cruising on I-70 west of Denver during the trip the kids asked us to crank up the radio volume whenever a song they liked came on. Several months later I remembered one of them. It was Taylor Swift’s hit song Calm Down. Yes, that's what my grandson was quoting; he meant nothing derogatory. He had been coerced by the rest of the gang to see how grandpa would react. In the song, Taylor says:
So uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh! You need to calm down, you’re being too loud! And I'm just like, uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh, you need to just stop. You just need to take several seats and then try to restore the peace. You need to calm down!
This is great advice. I dare you to take a listen. It will be jingling in your ears for several days and you will wish you’d never read this article!
So, when your window blows out...calm down. When center diverts you with impossible instructions... calm down. Calm down when bitching Betty starts yelling at you...check engine, check engine, check engine!
When your plane needs service do your research, find a reputable, qualified mechanic, and when you get the bill...calm down and don’t be "a stressin and too loud." Pay the bill and smile knowing he has made you a safer airplane. The same goes for training: find the best qualified and certified flight instructor for your type of aircraft, and know that the training is worth every penny you pay for it.
That's what I do. And every time I put my wife, my children or my grandchildren in my plane I smile knowing that I’ve done the best I can at keeping them safe.
For questions and comments on this post contact LOBO via email: info [at] lancairowners.com.