Red Carpet and Road Kill

For those of you who have been tracking my car saga, I elected to take it to LaGrand’s Transmission in Cape to have a rebuilt trannie put in it. Several other repairs will wait until I get it back down to Florida for my regular shop to work on it.

I can get all the repairs done for about a third of what a good used vehicle was going to cost. A new one was going to be in the $30K range. I LIKE not having car payments, so I’m going to roll the dice that I can get a couple more years out of my Honda Odyssey. Anyway, the decision meant that I had to fly back to Cape instead of driving Wife Lila’s car and ending up with TWO cars in Missouri.

We’ll deal with my trip out of order because of the photos I took. When I got into St. Louis’ Lambert Airport, I was amazed at how much damage had been done by the April tornado that roared through there. A lot of windows remain boarded up.

It’s a wonder no one was killed

When I look at all of the windows that must have blown out, it’s a wonder that no one was killed.

We have enough fuel for an hour

Keep looking at the Lambert photos while I recount the first part of my journey on Southwest from West Palm Beach to Tampa.

About half way between West Palm Beach and Tampa, the pilot came on the PA: “Some of you may have sensed that we’re not heading exactly to the Tampa airport. There’s a storm sitting right on top of it. We have enough fuel to fly circles for an hour. It should have moved on by then.”

About 30 minutes later, he said, “The storm is still sitting over the airport, so we’ll keep circling.”

Not long after that, he announced that we might have to return to West Palm Beach for more fuel if we weren’t cleared to land soon.

How I imagine the cockpit conversation went

Copilot: “I TOLD you that we should top off the tank before we left West Palm Beach, but, no, you said, ‘The gas in Tampa is cheaper. We have plenty to make it there.’ NOW look at us. Well, let me tell you, Mr. I Can Save a Buck for the Company, if we have to set ‘er down out here in the middle of nowhere, it’s gonna be YOU with a gas can knocking on the farmer’s door begging for fuel.”

Fortunately, a few minutes later, the pilot reported we were cleared for the approach. To his credit, either the tower was giving him good vectors or he was doing a good job reading the radar to miss the worst cells. We had lightning flashing around us, but the ride wasn’t too bumpy.

Can you open the exit door?

The Tampa – St. Louis flight was pretty uneventful. I lucked out and got a center seat in an exit row. When the flight attendant came by to give us the standard exit row speech, concluding with, “Do you agree that you can perform those duties?” I replied, “Yes, mam, you won’t believe how fast I can get out that door.”

“I’ll count that as a yes,” she said.

Cape Air promises red carpet treatment

After I did the piece on flying Cape Air, local manager Jennifer Huffman and I have become Facebook friends. I gave her fair warning that I was going to be on one of her flights. That set off this (approximate) dialog:

  • Her: “We’ll roll out the red carpet for you.”
  • Me: “Cape has a red carpet?”
  • Her: : “It does when you fly in, Ken. You’re a celebrity! I will even have an in-flight meal waiting for you. :)”
  • Me: “It’s not going to be an armadillo on the half-shell that you picked up on the way to the airport, is it?”
  • Her: “”LOL, I promise no road kill, I save the best possums for the family meals.”

Where’s my possum?

Right after I managed to navigate my way from Southwest to Cape Air’s terminal, I was paged to the check-in counter. That’s never a good sign. That’s where they tell you that your luggage is overweight, has been shredded, lost or all of the above, or that the flight is overbooked, or that the flight has been cancelled.

Instead, the very nice woman gave me a green tote bag that said “Valuables Tote for Wing or Cabin.” Inside was a nice cup filled with bubble gum and two small boxes of mints labeled In-Flight meal. There was also a small Ziploc bag containing what I presumed was once a warm paper towel. (I asked Jennifer if my VIP treatment would include a warm towel.)

No possum. I saw Pilot Sherry Murdoch walking around on the tarmac chewing on something. I don’t want to point any fingers, but I think I know where my possum might have gone. I looked for evidence of grease on her chin, but she must have cleaned it up.

Flies: welcome to Missouri

While waiting for the flight to be called, I wandered into the Mens room. Inside, I figured that I was back in Missouri, for sure: there was a fly perched in the urinal. Then I looked left and right and saw identical flies in exactly the same position. They were realistic-looking DRAWINGS of flies. I don’t know if they were added as a touch of whimsy or to give a target to aim at, but I got a chuckle out of them.

They were classier than the chin-high spitoon (sic) spotted in an Advance restroom.

Big Guy and our plane

This was about the last photo I shot of the ground until we got back to Cape. We were flying too high in too much haze and cloud to make it worthwhile once we got above about 1,200 feet.

We had a couple of white-knuckle passengers on board who didn’t seem to comfortable with some of the bucks, pitches and yaws when we were going through some of the clouds. I wasn’t worried, though. I’ve flown through a lot worse and the pilot seemed to be taking it in stride.

Unlike the other passengers, I had bigger worries. Pilot Murdoch normally flies a Boston route. She’s just filling in for a bit, so I was pretty sure she’s not well acclimated to fine Missouri cuisine yet. They don’t get exposed to many possum dishes in Massachusetts.

Mayday! Mayday!

I kept a close eye on the pilot, rehearsing what I would do if she went into possum failure at the yoke.I figured I’d have another passenger shove her aside, then I’d move into the command seat, put on her headphones and key the microphone:

“Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is Cessna 402C November 6765 Tango with five souls on board. We are in the clouds approximately 23 miles south of St. Louis at 4,000 feet, flying on a 172 heading, straight and level. The good news is that all gauges are in the green. The bad news is that our pilot is incapacitated, possibly due to acute possum poisoning. The worse news is that nobody here is a pilot. I’m pretty sure I can get ‘er on the ground, but that’s only because of the law of gravity.”

At that point, I unkey the microphone and scream like a little girl. What do you expect? I’m a photographer not a twin-engine-rated pilot.

Cheated death again

Fortunately, Captain Murdoch got us back into Cape County. About five miles out, she turned around and made camera-clicking gestures at me. I took that to mean that we must be cleared to land, and I started to shoot her touchdown, which was much smoother than mine would have been.

We got our red carpet

When the plane puttered to a stop, Agent Jeff Sutton rolled out a red carpet for us. Well, it was actually a small red rug, but proportionally speaking, for an airport the size of Cape’s, I’ll rate it a carpet.

It just dawned on me that my window was covered with so many greasy noseprints that I had to scrub a clean spot to shoot through this afternoon. I’m wondering now if maybe I’ve been suspecting the wrong person: I wonder if my special in-flight meal could have been lost to passenger possum pilfering? Perhaps?



15 Replies to “Red Carpet and Road Kill”

    1. Another bathroom fixture story:

      In the early 90s, a staffer and I had to go to Boston for training on a new piece of equipment.

      Dave hadn’t been out much, so he was surprised to go into a new bathroom to find that one of the urinals was at a lower level than the rest.

      I stepped up to that one and explained to him that we were Up North where the water gets really cold in the wintertime.

      Because of that, they put one of the facilities at a lower level so that particularly well-endowed men won’t risk coming in contact with the cold water.

      Dave uttered his normal comment, “No bleep?”

      Then, I noted that he was able to use the high urinal with no apparent splashage.

    1. For the record, I had a Coke shortly after takeoff.

      The Captain kept the flight attendants seated during the circling process because of potential bumps in the sky, so it was a spiritless flight.

      I never drink on a plane (for that matter, except for a beer at dinner a couple times a week, I’m not a drinker).

      You never know when I might have to step in for the pilot and I need a clear head.

  1. Ken, you missed your calling as a comedian. I laughed out loud at your description of relieving the pilot who succumbed to possum poisoning. Well done.

  2. I recently flew the PM Cape Air flight from St Louis. No turbulance but sounded like a lawn mower. They were very nice! My other flight was late, so I was running to the terminal. Security told me not to worry they were really nice and and would wait for me. During the flight I was thinking, “Don’t believe I’ll do this again.” But afterwards I decided it wasn’t so bad. It somewhat reminded me of other situations where your first thought is “What was I thinking?” then “I’ll take a day flight next time so I can see where we are if we crash. Flight was 55 min. and we drive it in 90….hummm.

  3. Another great story. That Cape runway looks NARROW. FYI – On the gas woes over Tampa, most folks assume planes take off with full tanks. Not so. The more weight planes carry, the more expensive fuel they use (this applies to cars and boats too) and airline accountants don’t like to pay to haul extra gas around.

  4. Didn’t think you did but as the story progressed I was wondering a little bit. I thought it was funny too. You can tell you have Missouri roots and Florida hasn’t converted you to Armadillo road kill yet, there sure are a lot of them down here.

  5. LeGrand’s has been in business at the same place as long as I can remember despite having suffered through innumerable floods. They are good at what they do and are truly interested in customer satisfaction. I’m glad you were able to come up with an effective, lower cost solution. Safe driving!

  6. “Cheated death again”, eh? Funny…if memory serves me correctly, that was the comment at the end of every flight lesson given by Ernie Chiles. Maybe I should have been insulted, but I was having too much fun. He was a great flight instructor!

    1. That’s definitely an Ernieism. He still says it.

      I’m proud to say I carry on the tradition by turning to the passenger next to me when we taxi into the gate and uttering those words.

      He also reassures you by saying, “I never left anybody up there.”

      He can still grease it in, even in a stiff crosswind.

  7. Where’s the co-pilot Ken? Surely there is one. What happens if the pilot passes out, or worse?

    I don’t think I will be flying with them if they only use one pilot. Am I missing something here?

    Great picture by the way. That’s the first time I’ve seen what it looks like from the pilots view as they approach the Cape Airport.

    1. FAA regs don’t require a co-pilot. That’s why I was prepared to step in, per the story.

      In all seriousness, BART, the shuttle service that goes between Cape and St. Louis on I-55 doesn’t have a co-driver with dual controls. The possibility of running into something or someone in rush-hour traffic is a lot higher than hitting someone in the air.

      Pilots have to be well-trained, undergo periodic medical checks, have to observe “bottle-to-throttle” rules about drinking and can fly only a specified number of hours without rest.

      I’ve spent hundreds of hours in small planes with only one pilot. I’m confident that I could land any of the single engine jobs in what would be a controlled crash.

      A twin would be more challenging.

      Of all the worries I have, this doesn’t even make the top 100.

  8. Reminds me of an event-filled flight in December 1964 from Amarillo to Burbank (intended landing spot) in a four-seater Beechcrart Bonanza on our way to attend the Michigan-Oregon State Rose Bowl game. A lot of things happened along the way that delayed our fight … and when we got to Burbank, we learned there had been a collision between two small planes at the intersection of the two runways. We were the sixth plane in an ever-growing stack that circled the airport while waiting for the ground crew to clear the wreckage. After an hour or so, our pilot (a businessman taking a graduate course at West Texas State where my dad, another passenger, was Dean of Business), calmly switched to the LAX frequency, said “Mayday,” and gained permission to divert the flight. After we touched down and began to taxi toward a hangar, we ran out of gas.

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