Top Gun Skills

After logging 40 flights in 3 weeks on my new RC plane one might say I’m a little addicted.  As you can imagine, I was plenty excited to pack my plane up and take it to Idaho this past Memorial Day weekend. Idaho is a magical land of rolling hills, blue skies and cow pies, but I wasn’t as interested in the pies as the first two. I’ve become quite skilled at flying in the confined local high school track and field area so I was thrilled to fly in an area that contained no goalposts or stadium lights. The family farm seemed like such a place. The country provides such openness that I was even willing to have my father and H.E.S. have a go on the controls.

The three of us walked up the lane behind the house, we found a perfect flying spot high up on a hill with a gorgeous 360-degree view of the green countryside. After a quick pre-flight check I launched my plane gently in the air. After a few minutes of soaring and climbing I had the plane about 4 mistakes high so I shoved the radio into H.E.S.’s hands. She flew along fairly well for a couple of minutes until the plane started to get away from her and she panicked saying “uh oh, what do I do?”. It seemed the plane got sucked into a vortex and wanted to fly farther and farther away, or at least that’s what she said happened.

“Let’s go ahead and reel her back in” I said as I took the radio back in my hands.

After a smooth landing and a battery change I once again took to the skies with my Super Cub. I put the plane about 5 mistakes high before handing the controls over to my Dad. He did fairly well for his first flight out until I realized the plane was being sucked into the very same vortex that H.E.S. had experience earlier, except this time it appeared as if my dad was trying to rototill the fields with the plane’s propeller. I grabbed the controls just in time to avoid the hard ground. I flew the remaining battery out and brought her in for a nice gentle landing. Things were going smoothly as I was landing the plane towards us until I quickly realized I had too much speed and height to land. Instead of throttling up for another approach I put my hand out to catch the plane (stupid I know). This was effective in not only knocking the plane out of the sky but also slicing my hand open with the spinning propeller. I bent the hell out of my propeller so much that it looked more like an uppercase “L” rather than a nice, straight capital “I”. With no fresh batteries remaining and a bent propeller, we decided to pack everything up and head back to the house.

Later that evening I put on a new prop and charged up a couple batteries. I wanted to get the bird back in the air to make sure everything was still functioning properly after my earlier faux pas. With nightfall fast approaching I grabbed my plane and headed outside. My dad had already retired to his place about a mile down the road and H.E.S. said she felt like staying in, so I went alone.

I did my preflight and powered up the Super Cub. She took off with the greatest of ease and climbed nicely against the golden clouds and the setting sun. I quickly found myself smiling and having a great time soaring high with the beautiful backdrop of the countryside in view. About halfway through the battery I was feeling confident and decided that I would keep the plane high above my head as I slowly walked down the hill back towards the house. This ‘brilliant’ idea was going along swimmingly until I suddenly realized I was in a small valley between two hills.

Then it happened.

I was so focused on my plane high in the distance that I failed to notice the gigantic pine tree in front of me about to obstruct my view. My plane flew out of view behind the tree; I panicked and ran up the hill around the tree fully expecting to see my plane in view on the other side. Instead all I saw were blue skies and pink clouds glowing from the sunset.  Frantically my eyes scanned the horizon and my ears tuned in to catch any sound from the familiar buzzing…nothing. Only stillness and the cricket’s song filled the air. My heart sank and I stood there motionless as I slowly throttled down my radio, visualizing bringing the plane in to a soft landing. I had last seen the plane heading away from me so I did a sweeping left turn in hopes the plane would land somewhere on our property, I panned the sky one last time and when my eyes failed to locate anything I turned the throttle completely off.

Darkness was fast descending across the hills so I began running up and down the rural road and through the fields searching for my plane like a boy after his lost dog. I thought it would be easy to spot a large white object against the dark green and brown fields but I had no luck. Frustrated, I slowly walked back to the farmhouse. Covered in sweat and dirt from my search I opened the creaky door to the house. As I entered H.E.S. looked up from the TV and said “Where have you been? It’s dark out there!”. I sat down in the Lazyboy next to the couch with only my radio in hand. Looking down at the floor I mumbled “I….I lost my plane….”

“You what?!” she exclaimed incredulously.

“Yeah, well it got away from me, and now I can’t find it.” I said mopily.

In disbelief H.E.S. replied, “I can’t believe you lost your plane”.

And with that a broad smile spread across her face as her quiet giggles filled the air. For the rest of the night anytime she’d talk about the plane she’d start laughing. Apparently it was the funniest thing she had heard all week. I was unable to see the humor.

I slept restlessly that night with dreams of my plane in pieces, strewn across a vast field. Morning comes early on the farm and I was up before anyone else. I quickly dressed and snuck out to launch my search and rescue operation. I drove down the road and looked in the area where I thought my plane should be. Nothing. All I saw were green fields, fences and sleeping horses (I was up before the horses!). After driving back and forth down the road I headed towards my dad’s place a mile down the road. I wasn’t sure why I was going there but I figured he’d be up and I could tell him my woes.

I pulled up to the house and sure enough, even though it was barely 7:00am he was already awake, talking on the phone! We stood in the early morning sun chatting and I told him the story of how I lost my plane.

Dad: “Where abouts did you last see it?”

Me: “Oh somewhere SE of the farm. It’s really hard to tell since it was so high and far away. When I lost sight of it I did a left turn hoping to fly it closer to the house”.

Dad: “That’s funny because I saw the most amazing thing last night. I had just come in from watching the sunset and I walked to the window in the kitchen to catch one last glimpse of the scenery. I was looking at the horizon when this large white bird suddenly soared into my view. It was quite big, but it never flapped it’s wings. It came in, swooped to the left and disappeared behind the tree line of the neighbor’s property. I didn’t think much about it at the time, plus I didn’t have my glasses on so I didn’t know what I saw. But, I bet that was your plane!”

Me: “No way…..”

Dad: “Let’s drive down the road and take a look.”

We drove down the lane towards the neighbor’s driveway and got out. I didn’t have my hopes up because I thought my dad was either seeing things or just pulling my leg for a funny gag. He was ahead of me walking up the driveway when he stopped and said, “There it is right there.”

“Waaaa???” Was my only response. I looked up and saw my plane parked perfectly alongside the driveway, right next to a post. The morning dew glistened off her wide wing and I admittedly ran like a little kid up the driveway to the plane. I picked her up, examined the whole body and was amazed to find everything intact. Not one ding, scratch or dent. What an incredible surprise. We hopped in the car and happily drove back to grandma’s house.

My father and I had a good laugh over breakfast as we told the rest of the family. The chocolate chip scones and cheesy omlettes never tasted so good.

The night I lost the plane H.E.S. thought it was so funny because I had apparently been fairly cocky about my flying skills. I suppose a little humility is a good thing to keep one grounded but as it turns out, I have no need for any of that humility business. I can land my plane a half mile away with no visual….yes friends I am that good.

Need flying lessons? Inquire within.  


  1. mego said,

    June 1, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

    what’s H.E.S. mean- ’special friend’?.. and i totally want some c.c. scones.. i’m not even going to comment on your flying skills- all i can say is that you were definitely given some grace that day.. so pass it on..

  2. anthony b. said,

    June 11, 2009 @ 10:15 am

    I was also going to ask what on earth is H.E.S.
    You will need to explain that one to me.
    I know who it is, but why are we referring to her like that?

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