It was an aeronautical day in the neighbourhood when Mortimer Snert arrived at the F.B.O. in Stillwater. Mort had been employed by the local university in an obscure position for a while, and along with the privilege of working at such a fine institution also came the opportunity to take classes for next to nothing. Now Mort was always fond of learning new things, and since the situation presented itself, Mort decided to take advantage of it. Going over to the enrollment place, he got in line to get in line for the line to line up to enroll.
Mort had a good long while to contemplate his future, while standing there freezing his butt off, inhaling cigarette smoke from all the other linees and pawing through the class schedule for the next semester. Finally arriving at the end of the line, Mort had decided to take ground school, with the intent on getting a real pilot’s license. So that’s what he told the nice lady, who promptly in return redirected him to another line.
At the end of all of this, Mort was enrolled in ground school. He went by the bookstore to get all the proper things that you need to be a ground schoolee, and eventually started going to class. Well, the class was at night, and it was fairly interesting, except for the math, which Mort was horrible at. It was also in the middle of winter, and that particular winter set records for being colder than crap.
About half way through the class, the instructor decided to do a class participation thing, which involved the students from the flying portion of the class, and the ground school people. The intent there was to saddle one of the flying people with 3 ground schoolers, and take a trip to Ponca City, where they would eat lunch at the F.B.O. and fly back. The trip was planned for a Saturday, and Mort, being the punctual person he was, arrived early to stand in line at the Stillwater F.B.O..
Now the aviation portion of this particular institution owned a fairly large fleet of Cessna 172s, a single engined, high winged four seat airplane. Their contention was that if you could hoss one of those around in Oklahoma weather, then you would be about ready to fly anything. Eventually, the ground school instructor arrived, and sorted out all the flyers and flyees, and assigned them airplanes. Now we must remember that the pilots in this instance were mostly people fresh out of high school, and the whole intent of this exercise was to get their flight time built up, so they could go on to the next level of licensing. Having a lot of experience was not one of their high points.
Neither was dealing with inflight emergencies.
Having said that, Mort and his crew headed for the airplane. Now Mort had been grouped with a real interesting crew. The pilot was a runt of a kid, who looked like he was maybe 14 or so, and could barely see over the panel. In addition to him, there was a feller from the Marines ROTC, complete with camouflage, and this guy of Arabian descent, as close as Mort could determine. As soon as they saw the airplane, the Arabian called shotgun, which left Mort and G.I. Joe to be jammed into the back seat. Now the back seat of a Cessna 172 is not exactly what you would call excessively roomy, even for one person, and there were 2 full sized fellers jammed back there. Which was real interesting, because the Marine was one of those horrendously macho guys who equated any physical contact with another guy, accidental or not, as tantamount to being a homosexual. It was an interesting trip to say the least, given the size of the back seat, and the amount of turbulence that day. Half the trip was spent with G.I. Joe glaring at Mort and threatening to kick his ass. Now Mort had been flying before, and the whole thing was no big deal to him at all. The other two passengers, on the other hand, were new to this whole thing, and were to say the least, a tad on the nervous side as they walked in circles around the airplane and performed the preflight inspection. Again, Mort was used to aircraft things, and all the flimsy looking attachments that were involved in overcoming gravity. The other guys were not, and some of the preflight made them extremely nervous.
Now this would have been a good time for the pilot to make sure that everyone still wanted to go on the trip, and had he asked, Mort would have probably been the only passenger that day. But this was beyond the pilot, and they all squeezed into the plane, Mort and Joe in the back, and Abdul and the runt in front. The runt had Abdul read off the preflight checklist, which was no feat in itself, since Abdul knew about a grand total of 5 words in English.
That having been done, the engine was started. The pilot was given directions to the nearest runway, and cleared for takeoff. The fun was about to begin. The pilot stopped at the end of the runway, did a mag check, which flipped the other two passengers out, and wound the engine up with the brakes on. When he was happy with the results, he let off the brakes and the airplane lunged forward. The front passenger freaked. As the plane gained groundspeed, it also gained vibration. For some reason, those little tiny tires that they stick on airplanes never seem to be balanced, and by the time the pilot was ready to rotate, the tires were in contact with the pavement only about half the time.
Now the pilot kid was obviously not used to hauling passengers, and the rotation was a bit on the lame side. Realizing he was getting nowhere, he over reacted and hauled back on the yoke, and the nose went pretty much straight up. Immediately the stall alarm started yelling, along with the front passenger. The pilot eased the yoke forward, and came out of the stall with no damage. Abdul, on the other hand was in danger of damaging his underwear, as was G.I. Joe. Abdul was now grabbing at anything in sight to give himself some sense of security, and that included the control yoke, the throttle and flaps levers.
The pilot was waging a battle in front, between the airplane, which had developed a mind of its own, and the passenger, who was freaking badly. Now would have been a good time to return to the airport and offload that particular passenger. But this did not happen. So Mort, feeling a sense of impending doom, leaned over the front seat, grabbed Abdul by the wrists, pinned his arms to his sides, and with the most menacing voice he could muster, offered to break every bone in his body and stuff him out the window if he didn’t settle down. For some reason, that had an effect, and the guy chilled.
The rest of the flight to Ponca City was pretty uneventful, with the pilot trying to explain obvious things to his captive audience. They finally arrived at the Ponca City airport, flew an approach, and landed. The whole crew gathered on the runway, and as a mob, made their way into the F.B.O. and the cafeteria. Now would be a good time to explain that the F.B.O. at Ponca City was famous for its Mexican food. This fact was not lost on Mort, who took a dim view of the whole situation, considering the condition of the passengers in his airplane.
The crew seperated into pilots and passengers, with the pilots exchanging horror stories with each other about their respective flights there. The passengers, for the most part, sat babbling and consuming tacos and massive amounts of beer. Mort sat in a corner booth by himself and watched the whole thing transpire. He again had a feeling of impending doom, but there was not a whole lot he could do about it now. Ponca City was a long way from Stillwater, and he didn’t really feel like walking back. Especially in subzero weather. So Mort ate a burrito with no lettuce, and iced tea.
Finally the flight instructor decided it was time to go back, considering the fact that half the passengers were trashed, and herded them all outside. On the way to the plane, Abdul called shotgun again, and Mort glared at him, and reminded him of his promise on the flight down. Fearing that Mort was serious, he promised to be cool. Now Abdul and Joe had both consumed a massive amount of beer while in the restaurant, which left Mort and the pilot the only sober ones there.
So the return flight commenced. Having dealt with the mag check and all the other oddities on the initial flight, everyone was much calmer, the other two passengers having had their attitudes adjusted by the alcohol. Soon they were airborne. Since they had left, a cold front had moved in, and now it was colder than 3 kinds of hell. And more turbulent. Mostly everybody was ok with things, until the front seat passenger worked up enough nerve to ask the pilot if he could fly the plane.
Abdul took the yoke, and the pilot demonstrated how the yoke movements and the pedals controlled the airplane. Everything was fine until the pilot turned loose of his yoke, and Abdul was firmly in control. Abdul turned his head to look out the side window, and in doing so, turned the yoke with it. This put the plane into a sharp bank, and Abdul, being caught off guard, hauled the yoke back as far as it would go.
Immediately the stall buzzer started yelling, and the plane started bucking like a wild horse. The pilot was desperately yanking on his yoke, but being probably half the size of Abdul, was having no effect. Now Mort was painfully aware of aerodynamics, and of spins and such likes, and realized that if something didn’t happen immediately, they were going to enter a spin, an event from which Mort had absolutely no doubt in his mind that the pilot would be unable to recover. So for the second time that day, Mort leaned over the seat, and not very carefully removed Abdul's hands from the yoke, and whipped his arms around the back of the seat and pinned them there.
Abdul was still struggling, so Mort increased tha pressure until Abdul suddenly froze. Mort heard him scream something about breaking his arms, and Mort didn’t actually care. Finally Abdul was subdued, and Mort released the pressure, with the threat that if anything close to that happened again, he would indeed break his arms, and not just in one place either. Abdul was frozen in the front seat, and Joe was cowering in the back, wondering just what kind of a psycho long hair hippy faggot dude was next to him, and wondering if he too would be subjected to violence.
The flight settled down for a few minutes, until Mort heard the word sick emanate from Abdul. Now the people who owned the aircraft took into account that someone sometime will get sick in their airplane, and rather than allowing them to arc on the floor, they provided barf bags. The only problem was the pilot didn’t know where the baggies were in this particular airplane. So Abdul was in the front seat, turning green, and the pilot, out of sheer desperation, suggested to Abdul that he open the window, and barf out it.
Now would probably be a good time to explain the windows on a Cessna 172, and the logistics of opening them in flight. Cessna windows are hinged at the top, and have a little arm at the bottom, and when you open them, they open a grand total of 2 or 3 inches before the arm arrests the travel. These particular windows, being made of Plexiglas, are made to be opened only on the ground while taxiing or waiting for clearance. They are not made to be opened in flight. When this happens, the front edge of the window is forced outward, and the result is that air is funneled into the back seat at 120+ nautical miles per hour.
As soon as Abdul reached for the window, Mort knew he was doomed. Reacting instinctively, he slammed his eyes shut, took a deep breath, and held his hands out in front of himself as a deflector. The first wave out of Abdul was cheap American beer. This proceeded to soak Mort and Joe, as it splattered off Morts hands. This was followed immediately by 12 half digested tacos, with extra lettuce.
Mort was still holding his breath. Finally the assault stopped. Mort opened his eyes slowly and turned to look at Joe. He was white, and covered with lettuce, and looked like he would arc at any minute. Mort looked at the pilot, who was real white, and sweating like a dog. By now, the pilot had kicked his window open, and the inside air temperature had plummeted to below zero. Which was probably the only thing that saved than from certain doom.
The cold instantly froze the barfed up tacos and lettuce, and essentially eliminated the smell of the whole mess. The pilot declared an emergency, and unceremoniously flew the airplane onto the runway, no approach, no flare, just dove it onto the floor. Standing on the brakes, he made the worlds shortest landing, and headed for the F.B.O.. Before the plane was stopped, Mort had pried the door open and kicked his way out of the back seat past Abdul, and dove onto the runway.
Immediately he started shedding his clothes, wanting to be rid of the evidence of the trip. Fortunately for Mort, he had worn 2 of everything that day, and so peeling off the outer layer still left him legal, if not cold. Now Mort was one of those people who could not barf if his life depended on it, but he was pretty close to doing just that now. He was certainly not used to being barfed on, or having people barf around him. So gathering up his frozen clothes, he made a beeline to his van, and tossing the clothes in the back, headed to the laundromat, where he sterilized everything.
And to this very day, when he is presented with lettuce, his mind automatically goes back to the fateful trip in the back seat of the Cessna 172 with the drunken taco eating Arabian in the front seat.
Lettuce? No thank you very much.