Last night I was looking over some of my old notes from flight school just to refresh my memory and see how much I've learned. To my great surprise, I found only two little phrases scribbled in the corners of the pages. Before I tell you what those two things were, you have to understand that a whole heap of corny jokes surrounds the pilot world. I heard plenty of them during my time at Moody. You may laugh at them, you may not, but I certainly got a good kick out of them!
The first joke has to do with flying in what we call IMC (flying in the clouds and fog with no visual references to where the ground ends and the sky begins). For those of you who don't know, a separate license is required to do this kind of flying. When I was going through this portion of my flight training, I was getting ready for a 4 hour flight navigating just by the instruments available in the airplane. As my instructor and I were walking out to the airplane, he turned and gave me a "pop quiz" (as the instructors normally did). He asked, "Now Chris, what are the two absolutely essential instruments you need to have in order to fly through the clouds?" I racked my brain, trying to think of what we had learned in the previous weeks during our ground school classes..."Hmmm, maybe a compass, or an airspeed indicator, no maybe a GPS!" Finally I gave up and my instructor said, "The first essential piece of equipment would be a goose, and the second is a cat." After this, I was thoroughly confused and asked for a little clarification on the subject. He said, "Well, you need the goose because they always point North, and cats always land on their feet, so you know which way the ground is!"
Ok, I know real cheesy! Just wait 'til you read the second one.
One day I was flying along, enjoying the scenery when my instructor nonchalantly pointed out that we just passed over a small country airport in the middle of an apple orchard. He then proceeded to ask me, "Chris, when is the only time a pilot begins to sweat?" I thought that was kind of a weird question to ask since it was 30 degrees outside. My instructor promptly replied, "When the six-foot air conditioner out front (meaning the propellor) stops turning." I chuckled a little. And with that, he pulled the throttle lever back to the idle position and told me that this was a "simulated engine failure" and that my incredibly reliable airplane just turned into a glider!
Don't worry, this kind of thing is totally normal! The engine is still running, just like your car would at a stop light. It is a routine maneuver so that we can practice our emergency procedures. That way, if the real thing ever does happen, we will be ready for it, and know exactly what to do and when! Oh yeah, to finish the story, I made an uneventful landing at the cute little country airport we had passed over a few minutes earlier!