Thankful to be alive, I shut down the engine, squeezed my sweaty, shaking body out of the cockpit, staggered toward my pickup, and vowed never again to fly an ultra-light

You’ll Love Flying The Pup

By —— Bio and Archives--January 30, 2018

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You’ll Love Flying The Pup
Inflated egos are dangerous. When my flight instructor certified that I was a licensed pilot, my ego and I were flying high … too high, as was made terrifyingly evident the day I flew the Pup.

Elliott, a student pilot, was constructing an ultra-light, tube-and-fabric, aircraft known as the N3 Pup, and asked me to go with him to look at one that was completed.

The Pup resembled my airplane, a J-3 Piper Cub, but was much smaller — indeed tiny. After discussing its construction, Elliott asked Susanne, the owner, about its flight characteristics.

“It’s a dream to fly,” she purred, “especially on sunny, windless days like today.”

When Elliott mentioned that I was a licensed pilot, she said, “Take ’er up. You’ll love flying the Pup.”

The ink on my pilot’s license was barely dry, but my ego being what it was, I accepted the offer. That day I learned the hard way what Will Rogers meant when he said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

For someone toting as much lard as I do, squeezing into the cocoon-like cockpit required maximum effort. Once seated, my face and the instrument panel were mere inches apart. Throttle adjustments were made with a syringe-like device that the pilot pushed with his thumb. Common sense screamed, “Exit this deluxe butt buster immediately,” but ego defeated common sense.

With full throttle, liftoff was instantaneous. Like an un-tethered kite in gale-force winds, straight up it soared. Pushing forward on the pencil-sized control stick did nothing to slow its ascent toward the troposphere. Rudder and aileron inputs were so sensitive that my first use of them initiated a ninety-degree, death-stall bank.

Frantic, I searched for the trim tab to achieve straight-and-level flight. There wasn’t one! As the airplane climbed ever upward, I felt like a butterfly in a tornado.

Panic set in as I recalled my flight instructor’s prophetic words: “If you’re killed in an airplane, it’ll most likely be right after you become a licensed pilot.”

To my utter relief, when I eased back on the throttle the nose dropped gently downward, and I saw terra firma for the first time since leaving it.

Throttling the engine to idle caused the plane to drop like a stone toward the end of the runway, where the grass had not been mowed for months. When wheels met grass, the Pup stopped instantly. Had I not been strapped in tightly, my face would have become part of the instrument panel.

Thankful to be alive, I shut down the engine, squeezed my sweaty, shaking body out of the cockpit, staggered toward my pickup, and vowed never again to fly an ultra-light.

On the way home, Elliott asked me to make the maiden flight in his Pup when it was completed. This time, common sense defeated ego, and I said, “No, that honor belongs to you.”

Then I told him the same lie that Susanne told me: “You’ll love flying the Pup.”

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Jimmy Reed -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran, former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer, and retired college teacher.

Jimmy’s latest book, One Hundred by Five Hundred is available at Amazon.

His collection of short stories is available via Squarebooks.com, telephone 662-236-2262.

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