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Bottom of the Bottle Report III: In the Texas Shade

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  • Bottom of the Bottle Report III: In the Texas Shade

    I recognize that this is highly egotistical and that 98% of the people on here won't care, but since someone found the very, very, very long story I wrote about flying with ITS, I wanted to repost it here, for my own sake.

    More to come...

  • #2
    Part I: Never trust a man….

    When I met with Derf in Long Island and wrote my first Bottom of the Bottle Report, I concluded: “never trust a man whose camera costs more than his car.”

    In my mind I had written a similar coda for my trip to Texas before I even went: “never trust a man who has more airplanes than cars.” While there are surely many reasons not to trust a chain-smoking, egomaniacal, redneck cargo jockey, this turns out not to be one of them. Despite the fact that IntheShade owns three aircraft and is working on a fourth with a friend, this statement does not apply to our infamous Texan. He still has far more cars. More on this later.

    Sunday, June 12, 2006 6:30 AM

    The alarm goes off unusually early for a Sunday morning. Fighting off my morning grogginess, I lift one eyelid and spy my already packed suitcase. The anticipation of the day melts away any lingering desire to stay in bed. A quick shower and breakfast and I’m off for the airport.

    While I’m driving down the highway, my mind wanders: what kind of person is IntheShade, really? I had reread Elwood’s story of his own trip to Texas and perused back through the Trailerhouse and El Camino threads. I know he can be thoughtful and gracious. But I also remember other moments: back taxiing advice, Le French Follies, Fortran programs, jingoistic nationalism and innumerable moments of buffeting those who try to prop themselves up.

    My anxiety is made worse by one terrible reality: I’m a closet parlour talker and I know it. I live a corporate life, colonial house in the burbs, don’t listen to country music, own neither a Stetson hat nor cowboy boots and am in way over my head when it comes to flight dynamics and aviation history. In short, what the hell are we going to talk about?

    Pushing these thoughts aside, I board the airplane and settle down for the long journey to DFW. First thing’s first. What to read?

    [Unavailable Image of a copy of Stick and Rudder next to a copy of “American Way”]

    Yep, forget the inflight mag, today’s adventure called for Wolfgang’s little masterpiece. A few hours later, I stepped out into the hot Texas sun. My journey was nearing its end.


    • #3
      Part II: The gift that keeps on giving

      As I settled into my rental car, I slipped on my shades and popped in a little Kenny Loggins. With Danger Zone blaring from the speakers and my “Pilots do it inverted” plate affixed to the front bumper, I was ready to roll.

      Ummmm. No. Let's try that again.

      As I settled into my rental car, I slipped on my shades and headed west. I had an important stop to make – I wanted to get the perfect gift for Shady. I mean, even though he can be a puffed-up, master baiter on the forum, he was very generously having me over for a visit and I wanted to find a way to thank him. Seemed like it would be a good idea to get something for flying and something from Texas.

      But what?

      And then it hit me.

      Something for flying:

      [Unavailable image of toilet paper rolls]

      Something from Texas:

      [Unavailable image of four half bottles of Texas wine]

      And, then, just when I thought everything was perfect, I found a gift bag so extraordinarily appropriate that it really made the package complete.

      The perfect gift in the perfect bag:

      [Unavailable image of a Star Wars gift bag]

      Also, don’t forget the title of this section of the report – the gift that keeps on giving. Little did I know how central a role my little gag gift would play later on. Now, I was truly ready to roll.


      • #4
        Part III: Out of the Sun and IntheShade

        After miles of interstate, I found the right exit and my car stopped being a simple means of lateral conveyance and seemed to morph into a sort of time machine. As the sprawling metroplex began to give way, it was replaced by a landscape lost to time: two-lane roads, dusty fields, scraggly brush and rail lines – some active, some abandoned. Then, I saw the rows of old hangars popping up on the other side of the tracks. I knew I was close.

        Just then, a motion caught my eye. I saw an airplane, flying very low with an extreme bank angle. It was an old warbird, a Chinese CJ-6. The pilot pulled up sharply and zoomed back up a few hundred feet right over the arrival end of runway 14. At the same moment , a Cessna 180 lifted off from the other end of the same runway and the CJ-6 neatly banked into a tight formation flight with his buddy. They glided off to the south, away from the airport with the warbird pilot occasionally breaking off for some more aggressive maneuvering before rejoining the formation.

        With my previous personal experience consisting mostly of airports with large fleets of trainer aircraft and wet-behind-the-ears time building instructors in khaki shorts and golf shirts, I was definitely impressed. This was going to be an interesting day.

        I drove my car up on the taxiway, taking special care to observe the signs warning to “yield to aircraft”. I was pleased to note that I was tracking the taxiway centerline, even in my car. Even low-time student pilots get stuff right some of the time.

        About halfway down on the right-hand side I saw a blue Jeep that was familiar. Just like it looked in Elwood’s pics, I knew this was the pride of north Texas -- the teardrop trailer-towing ride of IntheShade.

        I opened the creaky door to the hangar, walked inside and was immediately struck by the darkness....

        Dammit, I was still wearing my sunglasses, so as I was taking them off and putting my regular glasses on, I was doubly blind. My eyes hadn’t adjusted to the dim light and without my regular glasses, my 20/400 vision didn’t help much either.

        I could just make out that there were two men. The one closest to me was sitting on a couch marked by duct tape repairs on the upholstery. He seemed to be in his 30’s. Although my vision was compromised, in my mind’s eye, I clearly saw the other man. Tall and skinny with leathery, weather-beaten skin he dangled a Marlboro between his yellow teeth and peeling lips. Despite his advancing years, he moved with a graceful fluidity.

        Then, I heard that deep, smokers voice thickened by a lifetime of Texas drawl: “Hey pardner, you must be Half Bottle. This here’s my friend Bart over on the couch. I have lots of friends, but he’s one of my few, true heroes.”


        • #5
          Good stuff, Halfie. Maybe I should dig up "Ancient Mariner's Maritime Mishaps" out of the dungeon? Nah, I'll wait a few years until things simmer down. You test the water. Don't turn them nuts into raisins now.
          Ancient Mariner
          Certified above and below...................sea level.


          • #6
            Originally posted by TheRealAncientMarine
            Maybe I should dig up "Ancient Mariner's Maritime Mishaps" out of the dungeon?
            One who got away


            • #7
              Originally posted by TheRealAncientMarine
              Good stuff, Halfie. Maybe I should dig up "Ancient Mariner's Maritime Mishaps" out of the dungeon? Nah, I'll wait a few years until things simmer down. You test the water. Don't turn them nuts into raisins now.
              I'm trying to be vulnerable and show my best stuff to our new friends for them to enjoy or ridicule, at their option. I'm afraid this one's too long to engage must interest, though, but I admit a certain satisfaction in seeing it online again. So, for me, that's enough.

              And I would welcome seeing your old stories again, too. Along with the Trailerhouse Tales, if anyone finds those.


              • #8
                Part IV: Drive my Car

                The three of us traded stories around Bart's old office for a while. Bart told a great one about the time he took off when VFR flight was "not recommended" by FSS and lived to tell the tale -- but barely. I'll happily recount his story upon request, but I have to cut something out for now or I'll never finish typing this.

                Before we left, Shady took me back into Bart's hangar, where I was again overwhelmed by the great old aircraft. There was a Staggerwing Beech, Luscombe, Cessna 180, Bucker Jungmann, Straightwing WACO and a J-3 Cub.

                As cool as this hangar was, what I really wanted to see was in a different hangar at the end of the runway. Shady said the magic words: "So, you wanna go flying?"

                I thought about answering, "is the Pope Catholic?" but I realized that the ensuing discourse on the Pope might delay us a bit. So, I settled for, "you bet I do" and we were off to Shady's hangar.

                We opened the side door and just enough light spilled in to drive the darkness into a modest retreat. Several large shapes loomed before me. It seemed much more crowded than I had expected and I soon found out why. ITS flipped on the light switch and the overhead lights flooded down, illuminating a treasure trove of ASF history. I was expecting to see his Piper Cub. I was expecting to see his Great Lakes.

                What I wasn't expecting was the rest of what was in the hangar.

                First, another Jeep, this one a 1984 model, brown in color (the blue one is an '82). Next, only briefly seen before on these forums. First, here it is -- the famous 1970 El Camino of Love. (Shady also has a '69 El Camino that was in the shop).

                [Unavailable image of cool car]

                And, finally, built with his own nicotine-stained hands: the teardrop trailer.
                [Unavailable image of cool trailer]

                At this point, I lost my card-carrying status as an aviation geek because I completely forgot to take any pictures of his airplanes! Thankfully, on his visit last year Elwood got great shots of the 1946 Piper Cub PA-11 and 1975 Great Lakes 2T-1A-1, which I reproduce here with my thanks to the E-man. Not pictured is the 1934 Monocoupe, another beautiful bird.
                [Unavailable images of very cool airplanes]

                In total, ITS has 6 cars and trucks. Two Jeeps, Two El Caminos, a late model Ford Ranger (I guess for formal occasions!) and a mustang that he keeps at his crashpad in Memphis. Whew.

                So, after pulling all the cars and the trailer out of the hangar we were able to free the Piper. A quick pre-flight and hand-start later and I was sitting in the front seat for my first ride in a taildragger.


                • #9
                  Part V: Peppy Piper Perfs a Pack of 2-Ply Paper

                  “You’ve got the airplane.”

                  “I’ve got the airplane”

                  And with that I guided the Piper southwest over a shimmering lake. On the far shore was a field that Shady pointed out as my target, but it was windy and maintaining our bearing took a healthy amount of crab angle. The good news was I could see our destination clearly – out the side window – yet we were heading straight for it.

                  ITS said, “gimme about another 500 feet. I want to show you something.” I opened the throttle wider and pulled back on the stick. Once established in a good climb, I turned around and saw that he had brought two of the toilet paper rolls along with him.

                  I smiled broadly.

                  Before our story continues, let me tell you why I brought the toilet paper.

                  A long time back, ITS started a thread about how he liked to trick his sister’s boyfriends. He said he would take them up in his Great Lakes, throw TP out the window and then turn the ship around and cut the streaming paper with his prop. But first, he always warned them to duck so they wouldn’t get a paper cut. He said only one guy ever called his bluff – a true International Super Genius Boyfriend of the Millennium.

                  Now, I always figured that the odds were about 75/25 that this was nothing more than a story that Shady made up either to yank our chains or his sister’s boyfriends’. You know, maybe he pretended to throw the toilet paper out the window. Or maybe he made the whole thing up as theater for our benefit.

                  Either way, though, I figured it would be funny to bring the TP. It was a nice memory of an old forum joke.

                  So, there I was sitting in the front seat of the Piper. Shady took back control of the plane and held his right arm out the side window with the toilet paper roll buffeting in the slipstream. Since I was looking to my right, he banked the plane sharply to the left. This disoriented me briefly and as I turned my eyes back to the front, I lost sight of the toilet paper. Had he really let it go out the window? Or did he tuck it back under the seat? I was starting to wonder whether this was the aviation equivalent of snipe hunting when he told me to keep a sharp lookout for the toilet paper and point it out to him if I saw it.

                  And then, there it was! A white streamer floating on the horizon. ITS leveled the plane and banked slightly again to align with his target. Zoom! Let me tell you, if you’ve never seen anything come directly at your head at nearly 100 miles per hour, it’s very hard not to duck. Even sitting in the Piper with a windscreen in front of me, it was hard not to duck. I think I even might have let fly a hearty, “yeeeehaw,” if not out loud certainly in my mind.

                  No sooner had we completed the first cut, ITS banked the planed steeply again and began a sharp turning dive. 180 degrees later, the now shorter stream of TP was visible off the right wing. Wooosh! Another pass and the streamer was again sliced in two. Then a third steep, diving turn. We just barely missed the TP off the left wing this time, but had just enough altitude for a fourth pass. Another direct hit.

                  Then as we lazily circled, watching the shredded paper fall into the trees below, Shady said something I never -- even in my wildest imagination -- had expected to hear.

                  “Ok, it’s your airplane again. Climb us back up to 2,500. You get to do the next roll.”

                  Huh? Me? ITS is going to let a pre-solo student pilot yank and bank his Piper around like that? Cool!

                  As we climbed back up, I was thinking about how my flight training to date hadn’t fully prepared me for this. Don’t get me wrong; the basic elements were there. I knew I wanted to focus on maintaining coordinated flight, especially in the steep turns, so I played around with the rudder a little bit to get a feel for it. I certainly had practiced steep turns ad nauseum, but the maneuver you perform in flight training requires you to maintain altitude in your steep turn. I had never before combined a steep turn with a steep descent. But hey, there’s a first time for everything right?

                  So, established at 2,500 feet, I found myself with my left hand on the stick and my right hand out the window holding a roll of toilet paper that I had bought only as a gag gift just a couple of hours earlier. It was truly the gift that kept on giving. I smiled again as I loosened my grip on the roll and felt it fall away into space.

                  Here we go.

                  Stick firmly right, coordinated with rudder, I was fighting the urge to keep the nose up like in training but I let it drop so we could dive. As I leveled out the dive, I saw the toilet paper, but I hadn’t banked sharply enough. We just missed it off to the right. I banked harder, focusing on getting around quickly enough to complete the turn. This time, when I saw the toilet paper it looked like we had a better angle. I turned a little bit more and lined up the streamer.

                  Zing! I nailed it. Square on the prop, the streamer was sliced in half. Time for another mighty yeeeehaw!

                  Of course, I wasn’t as quick in my maneuvering as Shady had been, so I only had time for these two passes before we were getting too low to safely continue. But I was pleased that I got one out of two cuts. It truly was turning out to be a great day.

                  But, actually, it was only going to get better.

                  Shady said: “Well, we’ve got two more rolls of toilet paper back at the hangar. Whaddya say we try it again? If you thought that was fun, wait ‘till you see how we do it in the Great Lakes.”


                  • #10
                    Also, if anyone is actually reading this, my apologies for the interlude but my lunch date is here, so I won't get to formatting and re-reposting the last two parts for about an hour or so.


                    • #11
                      My thanks for reclaiming these important chronicals. Perhaps the few who have expressed alarm at the influx of AD Refugees might well consider the rich legacy that has been given to them.


                      • #12
                        Part VI: The Rollercoaster

                        Originally posted by FAR 91.307(c)

                        Unless each occupant of the aircraft is wearing an approved parachute, no pilot of a civil aircraft carrying any person (other than a crewmember) may execute any intentional maneuver that exceeds—
                        (1) A bank of 60 degrees relative to the horizon; or
                        (2) A nose-up or nose-down attitude of 30 degrees relative to the horizon.

                        IntheShade lined up his Piper for final approach onto Runway 14. The gusty winds knocked the plane around a bit, but with the wisdom of thousands of hours of experience, the pilot stayed two steps ahead of the airplane. Beyond the threshold, with the plane in ground effect and beginning to flare, another big gust hit our ship. Although faced with an immediate ballooning effect and some drift, ITS corrected both expertly and rubber kissed asphalt as tenderly as a mother with her baby.

                        One more perfect landing under his belt, Shady taxied back to his hangar. We shut down the Piper and pulled out the powerful yellow and black Great Lakes.

                        I will admit: I was very, very excited about flying in this plane. I’ve always wanted to fly in an open-cockpit plane. I’ve always wanted to experience aerobatics. I was just about to fulfill both of these dreams. Strangely, I was less nervous than I expected to be. Just looking at the Great Lakes, something about it conveys both power and stability. This was going to be fun!

                        Then from the hangar, out came ITS holding a red parachute. “Hold this, but don’t touch that silver D-ring,” he said. Here’s another place where knowing something about the FARs is a very good thing. It was certainly reassuring to know that it was required that I wear the parachute. It would have been much worse to think my pilot thought it was necessary, too.

                        So, between the chute and the very serious seat belts in the Great Lakes, I must have had to fasten about 5 or 6 metal clips about me. I was definitely not going anywhere. Or so my mind convinced my heart.

                        Shady briefed me. “Sorry, man, but I left my headsets at home, so we won’t be able to talk on this ride because of the wind noise. If you want to quit at any time just pat the top of your head and we'll come on back.” I was determined to put my hand absolutely nowhere near the top of my head.

                        “Here’s the plan. First we’ll fly back to the same area where we were before. Then we’ll do the toilet paper trick again. Then we’ll do some aerobatics. Sound good?” Once again, I was thinking about Catholics and Popes.

                        Now, I tend to be a fairly linear thinker and I was glad to have this sequence of events in mind. A, B, C. One, two, three. Fly straight, chop TP, aerobatics. It was comforting to know what was going to happen. No surprises.

                        Or so I thought.

                        I think Shady might have been ticked off that I took away his opportunity to pull the toilet paper trick on his own terms. He was ready to play.

                        As we were gliding straight and level over the lake, I was completely relaxed and enjoying the scenery. I figured it would be about 5 more minutes before we got to the TP drop zone. Aerobatics were nowhere near my mind when without any warning – bam! – 360 degree snap roll. The sky turned over in front of me and in the space of no more than a second or two we were again flying straight and level.

                        It was very cool. I gave ITS a big thumbs up. Even though he caught me off guard, I still enjoyed it. Heck, I probably enjoyed it even more because I wasn’t expecting it. Plus, I didn’t want him to get any idea in his head that I wanted this cut short. For anything.

                        We arrived at the previous location of our TP maneuvering and I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see Shady holding a roll of toilet paper.

                        Here we go.

                        The toilet paper dropped into the slipstream and the Great Lakes immediately started a 90 degree vertical climb combined with a slow quarter roll to the left. I’m thinking: "wow, only a couple of minutes into the flight and we’ve already exceeded both the roll and nose-up attitude limits of 91.307(c). Good thing I’m wearing that parachute. "

                        No, what I’m actually thinking is: yeeeeehaw!

                        We complete our quarter roll at the top and are now inverted before diving for the earth on the backside of the loop. (This is a quarter cloverleaf, I find out later). Shady’s now spotted the TP streamer and he’s banking at the same time he’s pulling out of the dive. Close to +4g’s at this point (one of our biggest g-maneuvers right out of the gate) and I’m feeling my cheeks start to pull down toward my shoulders. The pressure lessens and I look up just in time to see the toilet paper rocket through the prop. Zip!

                        After that, it’s a blur. Several more steep turns and inversions and every time we’re slicing up the streamer. When he was done this time, it looked almost like it was snowing as the remnants drifted into the field below. There wasn’t a single piece left that looked more than a foot long. Simply shredded.

                        Shady did the last toilet paper roll, too, and it was just as wild a ride as the first. One difference though, was that we missed on the second pass. He tapped me on the shoulder and pointed down at the toilet paper below us. When we missed it, the TP had been caught up in our vortex and the long streamer was actually spiraling down to earth instead of just floating. The helix in the air was magnificent – beautiful but also logical – the mechanics of flight revealed in a coil of white.

                        Now, it seemed to me that we had been doing quite the aerobatic routine just chasing the toilet paper, but of course, ITS had promised more aerobatics afterwards and he did not disappoint. More cloverleafs, hammerheads and Cuban 8’s than I can recall. It was everything I’d hoped for and more. I only wish he could have seen the giant grin that was permanently plastered across my face.

                        Borrowing again from Elwood, here are some pics of what we probably looked like up in the sky:

                        [Unavailable images of Great Lakes performing aerobatics]

                        After the aerobatics were complete I felt another tap on my shoulder. I looked around and saw ITS with both his hands sticking up in the air. I could hardly believe what I was seeing, but only one possible interpretation came to mind: he was giving me control of the Great Lakes now, too.

                        I grabbed the stick and rocked the wings to let him know I had control. Then I began getting a feel for the stick. First a gentle 90 degree turn to the left. Then back to the right. I felt un-coordinated during those turns, so I tried it again keeping concentration on using the rudder to minimize slip.

                        There, that felt better. As my confidence grew, I steepened the turns. Tried a gradual climb and descent. It was fun, but it’s similar to the feeling you get when driving a high-performance sports car down a neighborhood street. It feels good, but you know you’re not driving it the way it’s meant to be. This was the one moment where I really wished for the headsets so I could have asked for his guidance on how to get the most out of the plane without going beyond my limits. But it was still a blast to have that much power and control in the palm of my hand.

                        Our flight complete, ITS took the controls and pointed us back toward his home field. Once again, he battled the wind and won. Another greaser and the score was ITS: 2 / Mother Nature: 0.

                        So, that’s the story of my flights with IntheShade. When I called my wife the only way I could think to describe flying aerobatics was that it was the longest, best rollercoaster that you could imagine. The g-forces were thrilling, the inversions impressive and the snap rolls dizzying.

                        In a lot of ways it’s a good analogy. But the more I thought about it, the more I kept feeling like I was missing something very important. It took me two days to figure out what it was.

                        More to come...


                        • #13
                          Epilogue: The Rollercoaster Reloaded

                          I called it a rollercoaster and it was. But that was a visceral reaction borne of an adrenaline-fed emotional response. I smelled the avgas and fresh-cut fields, felt the wind in my hair, saw the clear blue Texas sky rotating around before my eyes and felt the pull of g-forces beyond my experience. It was nothing short of the thrill ride of a lifetime. But it was so much more.

                          “It was a rollercoaster.”

                          Shady smiled when he heard me say that. I thought then that his smile was a reflection of my own – he had shared a piece of his world with me. I had a great time and he enjoyed it, too. But I think I understand now that there might have been the slightest edge to that nicotine-stained grin. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it was MOSTLY what I wrote above, but I think there might have been an edge – just an edge – of concern.

                          Why? Because in my enthusiasm for the thrill of the moment, I missed the big picture.

                          It’s taken two days for my mind to catch up with my feelings.

                          If a rollercoaster designer takes a child on his ride, he just wants the kid to have fun. He doesn’t expect the wide-eyed lad to have any deeper feelings. But if that same man takes an engineer with him, he hopes his guest will have a richer experience. Thrills are still thrills but he’s hoping also to impart an appreciation for the complexities of the design – the labor of love that bore the fruit of his dreams.

                          In that same vein, when a pilot takes another pilot – even a lowly student pilot – for a new experience in the air he’s giving his friend two experiences at once.

                          At first I only grasped the rush, but lately my mind is playing tricks on me. The smell of avgas is being joined by thoughts on what happens to angle of attack at the apex of a hammerhead when the rudder is kicked over to bring the nose around. The memory of g’s on my face is joined by thoughts on whether the load on the airplane brought us to the edge of stall despite our considerable airspeed. The twisting image of blue sky and brown earth is matched by consideration of how the stalling wing that enabled our snap roll is made so cleanly without the yawing feeling of incipient spin that I am used to in an uncoordinated stall.

                          So, Shady, thanks for a thrill I’ll ever forget. But thanks even more for the best flight lesson this humble student has ever had.


                          And that, folks, nearly three years later is...

                          The End.



                          • #14
                            yeah yeah yeah

                            He's still a box jockey who without industry professionals like me wouldn't be able to do what they do. bah!

                            And being a box jockey isn't that hard. I just surpassed 10000 hours as a Virtual Westjet FO. How hard could it be flying packages?


                            • #15
                              I always thought it was ITS´ enormous thinner-than-air ego bubble that kept him airborne.

                              But I´m willing to learn, thanks for the report.
                              Res Severa Verum Gaudium