My Dad Had My Back

Dad on the left.  me on the right.

Dad on the left.  me on the right.

In my early days of learning to fly I was blessed with a Dad who had my back.

And, I needed it.

Only two or three week’s prior I had failed to lower the landing gear in the Cessna 210 (C-210) I was flying.

Even though I was only 16 and had soloed C-172 only weeks before, I was allowed to fly a C-210 owned by the founder of Cobia Boat Company, Harold Slama.

Mr. Slama was a private pilot and recent instrument pilot and wanted my Dad to fly with him on business trips when the weather might become inclement.  My Dad reached an agreement with Mr. Slama that included allowing me to use his airplane for training purposes.

The airplane was fresh out of the paint shop after receiving repairs for damage from my landing without the benefit of wheels.

The damage was minimal, but some skin had to be replaced and the aircraft repainted.

So, fully repaired, bright and shiny it sat proudly in its hangar at Herndon airport (currently named Orlando Executive).

I don’t recall the reason, but one of my high school teachers came by the airport and stopped by the hangar where my Dad and I were working on something.

My teacher was admiring the C-210.  He liked aviation but wasn’t particularly familiar with the different airplanes, so I was giving him the tour of the attributes of the C-210 when he stopped me and said, “You mean the wheels go up on this airplane?  Where?”

The C-210 has retractable landing gear but when the gear is fully up or fully down the landing gear doors are closed and not noticeable, so sitting in the hangar it is hard to tell where the gear would go.

The landing gear is operated using hydraulic pressure provided by an engine-driven hydraulic pump.  In the event of a hydraulic pump failure, however, a back-up pump is available to lower the gear.

A telescoping handle in the center console below the instrument panel operates the back-up pump manually.

To show my teacher where the gear is stowed away, I decided to extend the manual pump handle and pump it knowing the first thing it would do was open the nose gear doors.

I put the gear actuator handle to the up position because that was required to get the nose gear doors to open...or, at least that is what I thought.

After only three or four pumps of the handle, the nose gear doors opened and the nose gear simultaneously collapsed, smashing the engine nacelle to the hangar floor.

To say I was embarrassed and mortified would be an understatement.

Standing next to my teacher looking at the newly painted airplane with its nose sitting on the hangar floor I think I must have been in shock.

My Dad who was visiting the guys in the adjacent hangar came rushing in.

I didn’t look up at him...until he said, “Wow! That was lucky!

What?  I looked up at him and saw he was looking at the ceiling of the hangar.  I followed his gaze and he said, “The tail went right between the trusses and isn’t hurt.”

Yea, my Dad had my back.

Mr. Slama was an enormously generous and forgiving man...but my two bone-headed acts were more than even he could tolerate.  I never flew the C-210 again.

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