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#102 Chickens

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Bert's Chicken
Photo by Bert Garrison
Some of my expressions get used a lot.  They also prove to be fodder for good-natured ribbing on the part of my friends and students.  As is often the case, many of these expressions are actually “truisms”.  They are well-used simply because they are so often accurate.  One of them comes to mind:  The “Chicken Coming Home to Roost”.
It occurs to me that there are both good chickens and bad chickens. Let’s say that a pilot has a tendency to skid his turn from base to final.  It’s a pretty common tendency, one that I see all the time.  It’s likely that several instructors have had the opportunity to correct this tendency but, for one reason or another, have failed to do so.  One day the guy skids that turn , overshoots the centerline, hauls back the stick to get the nose back up and regain the glide path, then suddenly spins into the ground, killing himself and destroying a very nice airplane.  A bad chicken has returned to its roost.
Another pilot has suffered an engine failure over some rough country.  He spots a clearing that is barely suitable for a landing.  He heads for it.  He sets up a circling approach and makes about three turns over the site as he plans his landing.  With only about three hundred feet left, he adjusts his circle, turns the last 180 degrees with a steep, well-coordinated turn and slides into the tight spot with room to spare.  A good chicken has settled, with minimal flapping, onto its roost.
These metaphoric chickens are linked to several things that make them at once complex and important.  They are metaphors for training, consisting of a very real link back to an instructor who has either let the student down or provided him with a grounding that will serve him well for his entire flying career.  They are also metaphors for the flier’s own attitude, setting the stage for his own search for enlightenment… or his disregard for it.
We may not realize it, but we all have this flock o’ chickens that we cart around with us.  They are all flying around, but at the end of the day they will return to their roost.  Let’s just hope that they are all good chickens.  We’ll lop off the heads of the bad ones and serve ‘em up in a stew!
Happy Swooping (and flapping)