It's funny how four simple words can unlock old memories.
Williamsport pilot Michael Bush asked me this morning if I'd ever been to OWD (Norwood, MA), and I knew I had a number of times, but I decided to look at my logbook. At the bottom of this page, these are my flights to/from Norwood, going back in time 33 years, as of 2013-05-10.
I thought 1980-10-10 looked familiar, so I inserted in this table the third flight of that day, after Norwood. During my sophomore fall at Harvard, I did a lot of flying, way too much really, and my North House senior tutor, Marlyn Lewis, was quite right during that semester to call me on the carpet and to put a brake on that, for the sake of my studies. But I will say I learned some other lessons about flying, and about earning money for flying, working at a gas station in Watertown, MA, six nights a week 11pm–7am, getting held up four times, once at gunpoint, once by four guys with baseball bats, once by a guy who had his attack dog bite me in the hand. I did do some studying in the wee hours at that gas station when things got quiet before dawn, reading Dostoyevsky, The Idiot in particular, and feeling like an idiot. But let me return to that tenth day of October.
On the first flight, Jim (a TWA captain) showed me how he could land 45° across the runway at OWD in a Cessna 150 into the crosswind. He then brought me and a fuel pump to 9B4 (Shirley, MA) where I was to pick up a Warrior and bring it back to BED (Hanscom Field). The mechanic installed the fuel pump in the plane. As I was about to leave, a farmer, who had been a pilot, and his 13 year-old son, who was celebrating his birthday, pleaded with me to take them on a short flight, which I did, and it was a beautiful autumn flight, calm and smooth, with wonderful foliage. All the boy's friends were down there on the ground, waving and jumping up and down. Coming back into Shirley, a short field, I felt on final that the calm might have become a slight tailwind, so I initiated a go-round. Right over the runway at 350 feet AGL (above ground level), the engine RPM dropped to 1500 and shook the whole plane terribly and continuously. It was one of those times in my life when I prayed very hard. The farmer offered to help. The fact that he remained so calm was alone very helpful. I made a 270° left turn at 350 AGL and 55 knots, while I tried to figure out what was wrong with the engine, over tall forest trees on rolling hills just below, wondering if I could alight on a tree top as the birds do, if I had to. I turned until I was back on final and then I pulled the power back and glided in, very aware this had to be perfect. After landing, I switched everything off, and looked down at my right knee, which was shaking. For ten years after that, whenever I had a nervous moment in a plane, my right knee would shake. The kid in the back seat was jumping up and down, "Dad! That was the best birthday present ever! Wow! Thanks!" He had no idea of the trouble we had at the end, and the father remained quiet. Then the father held out a twenty dollar bill for me to take, for fuel, and I refused, but he insisted. He had to be the nicest man I ever met. Actually, I felt I was in the presence of an angel that day, that he was no ordinary man, but a true man of God, and that this had been a miracle. I still think so. He and his son bid me farewell, I was amazed, but I was also pretty shaken.
A few days later the mechanic said that a nut had fallen into the carburetor air box, blocking the air supply, so "if [I'd] just leaned it out all the way" (at 350 AGL at 55 knots over forest trees!) then it would have run fine. Believe me, in the moment, that was the last thing on my mind—usually you pull the mixture all the way out to cut the engine completely. On the tenth of October, though, the owner of the airstrip, who ran a day rehabilitation work program for juvenile delinquents who returned to prison each night, gave me a ride back into Boston, and the whole way he talked about how much he loved the seasons in New England and Boston, and he calmed me down, he talked eloquently and poetically, and I ended up staying in Boston another 20 years.
|027606||1999-08-19||C172K||N7367G||OWD||23:30||OWD||01:00||1.5||Safety pilot for Joe. BED ILS 11, OWD NDB 35. Smooth.|
|027203||1997-04-10||C172||N||OWD||OWD||1.3||Practice approaches w/Joe Marshall. Joe flying. (Note: I should have put this on previous page.)|
|013007||1981-06-26||C150||N66458||PVC||16:12||OWD||17:00||1||0.8||0.8||0.8||0.8||0.8||To Norwood to get some food - no luck - restaurant closed. Landed Rwy 28.|
|013101||1981-06-26||C150||N66458||OWD||17:15||BED||17:45||1||0.5||0.5||0.5||0.5||0.5||Quick hop back to home base. 30 SCT Vis. 15 mi. Wind 290 @ 12G22.|
|012005||1980-10-10||PA28-151||N4495X||9B4||14:40||9B4||18:10||1||0.5||0.5||0.5||0.5||Scenic flight for man & his 13 yr. old son, very nice people. Partial engine failure on go-round!|
|012004||1980-10-10||C150||N1766Q||OWD||15:30||9B4||15:55||0.4||To drop off elec. fuel pump with Woody at Shirley.|
|012003||1980-10-10||C150||N1766Q||BED||14:30||OWD||15:00||0.5||With Jim to pick up new fuel pump for Warrior.|
The table above was created initially with the help of DbVisualizer.