Posted July 2020

I'm a worrywart, that's what I am.
About 45 years ago, I was the front-seat passenger in a Mooney with a cracked heater manifold. Passed out from Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning after we landed.
So if I suspect CO, I get very, very nervous.
Went flying a couple of days back. Smelled exhaust for a moment during takeoff run. Made the flight a bit shorter than normal, leaned a bit into the airstream.
Figured I'd better check it out. Didn't hurt that I needed a photo of my CO detector in use for an upcoming article. :-)
Today, I hauled out my Pyle Carbon Monoxide detector. It's an awkward darn thing. I was looking at setting it on the floor next to the seat (between the seat and the inside of the fuselage) but realized it was just small enough to slide underneath the seat rail. Not only could it slide out of reach, it could ALSO foul the elevator pushrod under the seat.
Fortunately, I was wearing a shirt with big pockets. Launch, leave the airport area, haul out the CO detector. About 13 ppm...pretty normal, for a full-power climb. When I got to my altitude, I throttled back and re-checked. 8-12 PPM...again, pretty typical.
In other words, no problem. Gee, I'll just have to fly around for a while.
Oddly, enough, it was busy up there. "It's the middle of the week, people!" Yet there were a couple of Cessnas zipping around a few hundred feet above (Mrs. Wanttaja's little boy is not so stupid as to fly at 500-foot-step altitudes in busy airspace).

Back to home. On the way in, I heard an RV call that he was in just about my position. I start looking around, and spot him about the time he says, "I'm passing another plane out here...." So I follow him toward the pattern.
He was fast enough that a Cessna was between me and him on downwind. Fair enough. Unfortunately, he was apparently a student...flying huge patterns. I hate that.
But...they've got to learn, and I flew 747-sized patterns when I was a student, too.
There was a Pilatus turboprop ready to take off. He rolled onto the runway. And sat there. A second Cessna on final did a go around. He sat there. The RV did a go around. He finally powered up for takeoff with the Cessna that was in front of me about a half-mile out on final. The Cessna did a touch and go, I followed, and of course I had to follow him in his big loopy pattern.
Next pass was interesting. He turned final and made his call. A few second later, I turned final (a distance behind him) and also made a call.
A Cessna 152 at the hold-short line announced he would depart after the landing traffic.
Now: Traffic can be singular or plural. Did he mean he was going to take off after my touch and go...or after the Cessna in front of me?
Turns out it was the latter. When I was about a quarter mile out, he announced he was taking the runway.
I started powering up, and punched the mike button. "Cessna rolling onto the runway, did you notice the plane that's going to fly over you in about five seconds....?"
"Oh my gosh! I'm really, really, sorry!"
I wasn't upset. Made my day a little more exciting. "It's OK...that kind of thing happens."
I probably should have had him clarify it when he had the ambiguous call about waiting for traffic on final. No harm... beautiful, clear day and I was in no rush anyway.
As I was climbing over the far end, the guy made the call, "I'm going to hold on the runway for clearance for the upwind traffic."
The Cessna I was following was STILL on upwind, a mile or two north of the airport.
Here was my excuse. "Fly Baby will do an early crosswind to get out of the way."
Made a nice tight pattern, with an acceptable landing. On the next pattern, another Cessna had slipped in front of me. I stayed pretty close to him, assuming he was touch-and-go like all the other traffic.
Turns out, no. What's more, he missed the center turnoff (~1800 feet down) and was creeping along the runway to the next.
I did all the usual tricks...slow flight, S-turns, etc. Managed to add enough room that I was just passing over the threshold when he turned off.
But I was slow and my approach was unstabilized. I paid for it. Big slam onto the runway.
After over 30 years of flying Fly Babies, you'd think I'd just salvage the landing, blipping power and touching down further down the runway.
After 30 years of flying these things, I *don't* generally try to salvage the landings. A hard landing means I wasn't in tune with the plane. Frankly, I'd just as soon bag it and go around to try it again. Which is what I did.
Full stop next approach, acceptable landing, caught the center turnoff. Pull off the helmet to let my hair ripple in the propwash.
Nice flying day...even if I *did* start out as a scaredy-cat.....

Ron Wanttaja

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