Thursday, 8 March 2012
In the Hanger
Jan our most experienced pilot and the oldest by far, had just landed in thick fog ! with his loader driver sitting across his lap in a single cockpit aircraft.
He had decided to get his aircraft serviced whilst the weather was against us, and bought his loader driver with him, so he could go home for a couple of hours.
When Jan left his hilltop base it was in bright sunlight and the valleys below had patches of morning fog, by the time he arrived here; the fog was thicker and deeper.!
We didn't hear his aircraft until he was about 100 yds from the hanger, we all rushed out to see him, the visibility was below 100 yds! he certainly was lucky! getting into this short field under these conditions. But that's Jan.?
He climbed out of his aircraft, after first letting his loader driver crawl out from over the top of him, and he walk across to me and asked "was the tea on"?, so we all went inside and sat down, drinking his tea, he look across to me and asked"? was every thing OK" I replied "yes",
Jan and myself had been friends for years and will remain friends and I have the greatest respect for his ability, when it came to flying.
In the early days we had worked together flying DH82, a bi-plane with no brakes and not a lot of power, and a powerful desire to crash, which it often did.!
I had worked for Jan for a while! But that's story for another day!
Jan and I were both experience pilots, who were good friends, our main differences! for me was his attitude.
I was the new class one ag pilot with all the ratings required, with a desire to improve the image
of our industry.
Jan was the old school with a devil may care, cavalier attitude, not interested in change!
Irresponsible airman ship did not sit well with me.
At the time of the introduction of the new legislation regarding licencing, Pilots like Jan were given Gran-father rights which basically meant he could continue to fly as he had always done, without having to do the ag ratings.
I was a firm believer in the new ratings, they did make a difference, it was safer and we gained some respect from our peers,
Before we were looked on as a group of cavalier hedge hopping adventurers! willing to fly of off of any old short strips, be they deep in valleys or on hill-tops and below cables, in all sorts of weather.
People seem to forget that we were all Commercial Pilots,so did some of the Ag Pilots
I also supported the gran-fathers rights idea! it kept a lot of experience pilots flying and the aerial industry was desperately short of experienced pilots.
So Jan would have known that his landing in fog and with his loader driver on board, would upset me, so I just went home to keep my opinions to myself, it would have been a waste of time talking to Jan? He was aware of my feelings on the matter as I was aware of his. He could have returned back to his hill-top strip, which was in sunshine, and not risk landing his aircraft in poor weather, he had no in flight instruments and he had a guy sitting on his lap, restricting his full control of the aircraft, crazy!
I'm sure his loader driver considered Jan a hero! who could do no wrong? and Jan loved that whole idea, that we were heroes?
Later the same day Jan took off to return to his hill-top strip the weather was fine, climbing out he had a partial engine failure, (a fuel problem) and he barely made it back to the strip, Lucky!
Cost to the company a undercarriage leg, no personal injuries!
When I turned up for work the next day Jan was not about, I heard later that he never carried anybody in the cockpit again?
Being reminded of your mortality is not such a bad thing?
Jan and I just carried on as usual, a couple of weeks later we met over lunch one day,and the subject never came up, But then that just Jan!
In the hanger that day was a trainee ag pilot, who also thought Jan could walk on water?
A bit over a year later was killed just two hours after I released him to work.
Flying is hours of boredom! punctuated by seconds of terror!