Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Funk

I've been in a bit of a funk all week. It happens now and then and I've found through the years that the only cure for it is time. I'm not always sure what triggers a funk, but this time I have a pretty good idea. I know that I'm in a funk because I lose interest in all things aviation. In this case, that means that I have done no work whatsoever on either the broken RV-6 or the partially built RV-12. I told myself that I was just waiting for parts to come in, which was true, but there were things that I could have been doing in preparation.

For me to explain the funk, you have to know a few things about being a pilot in a population where that is still relatively rare. First, you have to know that people for some reason always want to talk to you about airplane crashes if they know you're a pilot. They somehow believe that pilots will always have an interest in accidents and will always have some insight into the cause. They believe this because it happens to be true, but that's beside the point. Having an interest and an insight is not the same as wanting to talk about it. Not by a long shot. Pilots take a personal interest in accidents and attempt to discern a cause because they want (need) to build a barrier around their own concerns that it could happen to them.

For example, I got a lot of questions about the P-51 crash at the Reno air races. As tragic as that incident was, it is not one that causes me great concern at a personal level. It is unlikely that I will find myself flying at very low altitude and at very high speeds anytime soon. Still... it can be draining to be constantly questioned about it. I have a fairly good idea what caused it, but I have no desire to try to explain it to someone that doesn't even know what a trim tab is.

Other accidents hit closer to home. A few years ago, a picture of an RV-7 that had crashed, killing both occupants, appeared in the local paper. It was a very disturbing picture; the plane had gone straight in and there was nothing identifiable left other than the tail cone sticking out of the ground. I was sitting in the break room at work surrounded by a group of co-workers while one of our temporary clericals was reading the paper.

"Who in their right mind would fly around in a homemade airplane?" she asked.

Dead silence around the table. Finally someone chirped up:

"You want to take that one, Dave?"

I politely declined.

The 'homemade' thing came up again this week in a most unpleasant way. I was moments away from going into a meeting on tuesday morning when I received a message from a friend. He sent me a link to a local news article that was headlined "Homemade Airplane Crashes," thinking that I might want to correct them on their incorrect usage of the word 'homemade' to describe an experimental home built airplane. I sneaked a quick glance at the article and learned that an RV-10 had crashed in southeast Ohio, resulting in serious injuries to the two occupants, one of whom was named Richard Gray.

I have to tell you about Rick Gray. Back when I was thinking about trading in my four seat Tampico and buying an RV-6, Rick was kind enough to give me a ride in his award-winning -6. When co-pilot Egg was terribly upset about changing planes, Rick also gave her a ride in his plane. I'll never forget meeting her at the airplane just after they landed to see how it went. Her smile was a mile wide as she told me how much fun it was, and that "he lands a lot better than you, too!" It is a testament to the quality of man that Rick is that I never heard another thing about that landing comment. I'm not such a man; I would have ribbed him about it mercilessly had the situation been reversed.

 Through the years of learning to fly and maintain the -6, Rick has always been ready to offer words of advice. It was Rick that I talked to about my interest in starting to build the -12. We spent 45 minutes on the phone taking things over when it came time to list the -6 for sale.

I had a lot of trouble concentrating in that meeting.

I've since had updates on his condition and it seems that he will make a full recovery, but I can't push this incident to the back of my mind like I could with the P-51. Rick's RV-10 accident happened on a test flight of a recently completed airplane. Coincidentally, my flying friend Wingman Ted recently had a similar incident. This hits close to home - I will be test flying my own airplane in the near future. This is a sobering thought indeed, and it has been on my mind quite a bit this week. Faced with that, a broken RV-6 cowl that I don't know how to fix, and the daunting prospect of the canopy fiberglass work on the RV-12 on the horizon, my mood has been somewhat dark.

I'm feeling markedly better today. Co-pilot Egg and I did a few hours of volunteer work at the Mid-Ohio Food Bank this morning. We were assigned a position in the meat sorting area, and through the luck of the draw we ended up manning the pork table. It started slowly, but it soon became apparent that pork was definitely where the action was. By the end of the shift, we had sorted and boxed three full palettes of pork. The next closest was poultry with just slightly more than one. While it isn't (or shouldn't be, anyway, but I yam what I yam) a competition, it was gratifying that 5,000 of the 7,000 pounds of meat processed came through our station.

We were done with our second palette before Poultry was done with their first:

Tomorrow will see the resumption of work on the airplanes. Blunderbuss Pete (formerly known as Cadillac Pete, right up until the moment he showed up at sporting clays with skeet chokes in his shotgun) will be meeting me in the morning for a day's worth of repairing and/or building.

I think it will do me wonders.

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