I guess I was responsible for her first airplane ride. It was a doozy. She met me at the hangar at sunrise and we’d headed for the nearby peaks of the Cascades. We’d then flown alongside “Three Fingered
Jack”, one of my favorite mountain peaks in the Cascade Range. The air was as smooth as a baby’s bottom and we’d been able to pass close to the rocky peak. The light was beautiful. You’d have to be nuts not to get hooked on flying during that experience. Later that month, she’d informed me that she had begun flying lessons in Marin County, California. Shortly after that, she’d taken her written and passed it with flying colors. She was serious about flying. After a few months of flying both in Marin County and here at Tailwheel Town, I soloed her. What does this have to do with traditions, you ask. Here’s why:
When she taxied away from the FBO at Madras for her very first solo, I wandered out to the windsock in order to watch her more closely. Once out there in the middle of the infield, I decided to answer the call of nature. The windsock pole was a handy place to provide a modicum of protection so I took my relief against it. After she returned from her solo flight and we were celebrating in the FBO building, I happened to mention that I’d taken advantage of the windsock’s position.
“You peed on the windsock pole?” she asked, somewhat surprised at that action.
“Well, yes,” I answered. Then, thinking as quickly as I am capable of, I added, “It’s a tradition, you know”.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“It’s a tradition that the CFI pee on the windsock pole when the student first solos,” I lied. Then, in order to make that statement a bit more believable, I added, “Everyone knows that.” The airport bums present for that dialogue nodded in agreement, even though they’d never heard THAT one.
Being somewhat new to aviation and its culture, she accepted it. Until she reads this little story, she will believe that peeing on the windsock pole is a long-standing tradition among flight instructors. I think it’s kinda like sending a new young aviator to fetch a can of relative bearing grease.
Do you suppose that some flight instructor long ago, decided that it would be a cool idea to clip the shirt tail off a new soloist? And, when questioned about that operation, he replied that it was a tradition, first started in order to get the student’s attention, or maybe symbolic of tail feathers or some other equally believable explanation. His pals all nodded in agreement. A tradition was born. Do you suppose I’ve started a new one? It’s now up to you, fellow CFI’s.