Lawton: Tick Causes Airplane Crash!
Today was the 13th of the month. That usually means trouble. I woke up early this morning and tried to be real quiet so not to wake up the wife. As I got ready to leave the house, I forgot to disarm the security alarm. The moment I opened the door I got my first clue that it was not going to be a good day. The alarm blasted, but I thought if I got the security code punched in fast she wouldn’t wake up. Haste always makes waste and I mis-entered the code which required clearing the alarm, which I had forgotten how to do. By the time I figured it out, got the code re-entered, and stopped the obnoxious noise, guess who was standing there glaring at me? That was a clue, but I missed it. Then I tried to open the garage door to load my planes in the car, but the door opener motor just hummed and didn’t turn.I had to haul everything through the house. This should have been another clue to stay home, but I missed that one, too. When I got to the field, the first person I saw was Ted, carrying his P-51 that had just crashed. I still didn’t get the message. So I proceeded to fly my Cub, ignoring the omens. I switched on the transmitter and the receiver in the airplane and nothing would move. I turned them both off and both on again and nothing. Thinking battery problem, I removed the wing and switched batteries. As I plugged the new battery in, I heard a servo twitch. That’s when I figured it out. I had transported the airplane to the field with the receiver on. So, when I turned everything on, I was actually turning the receiver off, and that’s why the servos would not move. I was beginning to think that maybe things were not going my way today. I should have heeded the warning but, Nooo! So, I taxied out and flew the Cub, so gentle with the bright yellow highlighted against the blue sky. What a sight! Then the excitement began, when the Cub exploded with yellow pieces going everywhere and floating down. There were red pieces from Larry’s airplane floating down also, following the mid-air collision that surprised us both. The Cub started a flat spin which seemed to take forever before hitting the ground. So long that I had time to realize what was happening, switch to high rate and give full up elevator in an attempt to flatten the spin even more. It seemed to work and the descent rate slowed. It hit the ground in the tall weeds and as we discovered later and Larry reported, apparently right in the middle of Tick City. Larry and I, along with a search party, went out looking for aircraft remains. Our planes had hit wings. My Cub had the outer third of the left wing cut almost completely off, though it was hanging by some covering. The Cub’s fuselage was not even scratched, thanks to the flat spin’s slow descent rate. I never saw Larry’s plane though it didn’t fare well and I don’t think a lot of it was recognizable. After we were back in the pits and had the usual post mortem, I put the Cub parts in the car, and proceeded to ignore the clues even more. I decided to fly my Radian sailplane. How dumb does a person have to be to not get the message after all those clues?
Soon, Don Haines and I were both flying our Radians at the same time in the same vicinity on the South east end of the field. I had been blabbing on to Don about the need for always having the aircraft trimmed hands off, so you could take your eyes off the airplane if you get distracted without the aircraft stalling or diving. Only moments later, the Gods had tired of my stupidity and sent a resident of Tick City, crawling across my hand. I glanced down just as it headed under my shirt sleeve. Instinctively, I reached down and flicked it off my hand. Then I looked back up and resumed flying my well-trimmed sailplane. But the Radian was not responding to my control inputs. What now? I thought, this day is not going well. I was starting to get the message, but too late, because out of the corner of my eye I saw a Radian crash into the ground with styrofoam pieces flying. It was my airplane, and the one that wasn’t responding was Don’s. The tick had distracted me long enough that when I looked back up, I started flying the wrong airplane. My day was complete- two for two, with the score Ticks-1, Clem-0. I quit!
I strapped myself into my recliner for the rest of the day just to be safe and pledged to pay attention to clues, at least until the next time I do something stupid.
Postscript by Larry:
Clem, is it safe to describe your experience as “ticked off”? I’ll need to do a statistical chi-square analysis to see what the probability of two “Ventures”, built some five years apart (the second to replace the first, with the same engine, the same covering), both meeting their doom in a mid-air collision. Lest someone think that the common denominator was the pilot, I would hasten to point out that I was not flying the first one when it exploded in mid-air on only its second flight. The one that turned into confetti today at least had nearly four years of flying before it was re-kitted—giving R/C credence to my favorite free flight axiom—” If they fly they die”.
The photos from today are of Gene Wallock’s new “Coronet”, maiden-flighted by Bob McFadden, and Tom Regan’s great flying “Lanzo Bomber”. Except for the mishap, it was a great day to fly!