Friday, April 3, 2009

Thanks, Hermann

Hermann Reuss died last month.
He was an Alaskan fixture and touched a lot of pilots' lives.

Hermann signed off on my private checkride in 1985. I had bought this Champ in 1984 and learned to fly over the summer of '85 with an 'unemployed by choice' Technical Writer cum Flight Instructor. I knew how to fly, had my own plane and wasn't particularly motivated to finish up until I realized I had about 100 hours, so I took the written and scheduled a ride with Hermann out of Merrill Field.

He said I had to have a NAV radio so I rented a 172. Hermann met me at the aiport and we did the ground examination:

"What if you were following this road by Kenai and ended up at treetop level under overcast?"

"I'd ask for a DF Steer to Kenai" (I'd done that in training and it sounded like a good plan to me...)

"You're going to fly your no-electric Champ to Kenai, without an instrument rating, in the clouds, on needle, ball and airspeed?"

"...Uh.... Yes?"

"You go messing around in the clouds in that thing and you're going to die. Why not just land on the road?"


Then he asked me a bunch of questions about the charts. Most of which I couldn't answer. I did know a little.. but he didn't ask me anything I knew. Hey, a topo was more appropriate for the type of flying I'd been doing than a sectional. I thought I was doing pretty good stalling while I looked up the answers in the margins until Hermann got tired of it and said;

"Let's go fly" and stormed out of the room.

"Wait, let me get the charts."

"Why? You've already proven you don't know how to read them."

So, I followed along (with the f-ing maps) and we went for the ride. At this point I figured we're just going through the motions and I'll be doing this all over... with someone else preferably.

He threw me under the hood right after lift off, told me the Big Lake VOR frequency and to take him there. Which I was doing surprisingly well, when he told me to take the hood off and make 2 360's. One turn, bump, two turns, bump... perfect.

I'm sure we did some other maneuvers but that's all I really remember. He said "Take me back" so soon that I was sure I'd blown it somehow.

For some reason we end up on a straight-in to 33 at Merrill and, since I didn't fly the pattern and am in a new plane, I'm high and hot. Well.... I KNOW how to handle this. I'd been flying my Champ every day all summer... so I crank in full flaps and slip like a runaway elevator for the runway. It's going just fine, everything is under control and proceeding just like I envision, but when we get near the ground (and slowed up) Hermann grabs the yoke.

I snap at him; "I've got it"... Because I DID have it :-)

He just looked at me for a second and then let go.

I pulled in and shutdown and Hermann didn't say anything for a little bit.

Then he began yelling.

"NEVER, NEVER, NEVER slip a Cessna with flaps. Did you read the manual? Do you even know where the POH is?..." And more along that that vein....

So, I figure I'm completely screwed and am walking away when Hermann yells, "HEY" and hands me my already signed certificate. "Have fun and be careful".

Hermann, rest well and thanks for sending me off on my aviation adventure. I promise to never fly into the clouds if I can land. And sorry for scaring you, but I still slip Cessnas with flaps :-)

1 comment:

  1. thank you Mr Earl for this most humorous weB LOG Posting, i was quite entertained, although i didn't quite get the Aeronautical References, but the humor was broad enough to entertain even the average layman such as myself. thank you so much, Mr. earl, you have "made my day" As they say.