Monday, October 13, 2008

CO conspirator

Man, has it been a tough week.

Friday's front page screamed "Pair Found Dead." But I don't usually read the newspaper until evening, so didn't notice that the pair was one of my friends and his wife; worse, it was a murder-suicide, although those close to the case on the medical side opine that the "murder" was euthenasia. My friend was devoted to his wife, and I'm sure felt that he could not live without her. I am, of course, in shock,

Saturday brought some relief, but Sunday's front page screamed about another shooting, this time a random one. The wife of a former president of the university, standing in a friend's driveway, waiting to go on vacation. Killed by a crazed stranger, who later killed himself.

And today when I got to my office I learned that another friend's wife had died suddenly over the weekend.

So I really needed to fly this afternoon. It snowed over the weekend. Planes on the ramp still had snow, but I had called ahead to have the 172 pulled into the hangar and preheated. We pulled the clean airplane out of the hangar, and I talked about the danger of airframe ice and tailplane stalls with my student while we waited for fuel. The wait took a long time, but I really needed to fly, so I was patient.

We started up and taxied out. The runup was uneventful. The wind was dead calm. Someone else had the airplane reserved in 45 minutes, so we just stayed in the pattern.

The mountains were snow covered with bare spots showing. The snow-covered ground and the overcast clouds and the mountains had the same texture, making the area look more like Mars than Idaho. My student was smooth on the controls and sure on the radio, and I just watched this alien world go by. That's what I needed right now.

He flared too hard and we popped up out of ground effect. Oops. I recovered, set us straight, and gave him the controls for another try. Much better. This is progress!

But something was bugging me. "Do you smell exhaust?" I asked.

"A little."

A little. Exhaust means Carbon Monoxide, which is nothing to mess with, but I really needed to be flying. I played with the vents and heater controls while he flew another good pattern, with the same conclusion. Was the exhaust smell going away?

We took off again, the exhaust smell stronger than before. Then I remembered that someone had left a CO detector in the jockey box. I pulled it out: "DARK SPOT MEANS DANGER," it said, and the spot was dark. I scraped at it with my thumbnail, with no effect. We landed and called it quits. I telephoned maintenance from the airplane as soon as we landed, making sure that nobody would fly the airplane until the exhaust system was checked out.

No matter how badly you want to fly, some days you just have to say no. Especially when all of the funeral homes in town are booked up anyway.

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At October 14, 2008 at 10:46 AM , Blogger Dr.ATP said...

Postscript: the brother of the guy in the next office, who was a very active pilot, died of cancer over the weekend as well.


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