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#180 Tiedowns

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Written October, 2016

By the title, you’d think that this was a story having to do with tying an airplane down.  It’s not.  Of course, if the airplane in question HAD been tied down, there would be no story!  Parts of this story were featured in the Tailwheeler’s Journal article, “The World’s Smartest Aviator”.  But this, as they say, is “the REST of the story”.

My Cub, in one of its many paint schemes over Fernandina Beach, Florida.

I was doing an airshow in Prescott, Arizona.  The Cub was temporarily hangared in a paint shop and I went to the local bar to visit with my air show colleagues.  It was while hoisting a few that I got a phone call.  It was from the guys at the paint shop.  Seems they’d pushed my Cub out of the hangar to do a little painting.  Nice of them to avoid some overspray on my plane.  Now I wish they had allowed it to be oversprayed!

While they were busy painting, a desert dust devil came along, picked up the Cub and did a bunch of damage to it, actually splintering one of its wooden spars.

I did what airshow comedy pilots have done for years.  I borrowed a Cub and did my act.  When the airshow was over, I headed for the next show in Oklahoma City with the Cub in its trailer.  I’d called ahead to my pal, Tom Jones, and explained my dilemma.  Good old Tom.  He fixed me right up.  Tom knew everyone.  One of those he knew was a brilliant woodworker who could also do dope and fabric.  The guy had a cabinet shop in Oklahoma and could handle the repairs to the Cub.  “Is he an A and P?” I asked.  The answer was no.  He was a cabinet maker.  So on I went and when I arrived at Oklahoma City, Tom took me to see the guy.  I can’t even remember his name now, but he was everything Tom said he was.  He showed me the project he was presently working on for a local politician.  It was a bed.

But it was not just any bed.  This particular bed spoke volumes about its owner.  A massive four poster, those four posts contained a feature you don’t often see in a bed.  Each corner post had a stout ring attached.  Some of my readers will probably know right away what those rings were for.  For the rest of you, I will explain:

Seems that the bed’s owner liked, how should I put this… “Rough sex”.  How’s that?  He could use silken ropes to tie his partner to the bed, a particular form of tethering that she evidently liked (gee, maybe she didn’t.  Maybe it was only HE who liked this particular act.  Or maybe it was SHE, who tied HIM to the rings! I guess we’ll never know.)

So I left my poor, battered Cub in the hands of the “Rough Sex Bed Builder” and agreed to come back a couple of days later.

When I came back I was very pleasantly impressed.  My Cub’s spars had been beautifully repaired with scarfed joints and reinforcing plates that any aircraft workman would be proud of.  And just as impressive, the fabric that had been removed to enable the repairs to the spar had been replaced and finished so that one hardly knew it was new.

That was a long time ago, but the lesson learned stays with me to this day.  Since then I have added ratings to my federally issued license.  I’ve also added knowledge and experience.  But way back then I was learning that the ratings often have little to do with the skill or ability of the workman.  The lesson is best explained by one of “Drake’s” colleagues in the wonderful short story, “Found at Pharisee” by Richard Bach:

“….we left a zero-since-major engine at Pharisee… tolerance to a ten-thousandth all the way through, all our own best work.  Drake’s personal guarantee for three thousand hours flying…(but) it hasn’t been signed off.  We have left them the best overhauled engine in the world today, and it isn’t legal.  They’ll have to tear it down, won’t they? …change the tolerances, break the guarantee.  When they get it back together, it will be just another engine, with a fifty hour warranty.  But legal, friend, legal!”

Lesson learned.