Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Critter Delays

No matter what man thinks, Ma Nature still calls the shots

Then, there were the bees. They were not funny. Repeat, NOT funny. Twice, I had been taxiing and suddenly found myself in the middle of a dense swarm of bees. And when I say dense, I mean enough bees that it cut out a bunch of sunlight.

Out here, there's a very high likelihood that a swarm of bees will be Africanized, meaning they've lost every bit of their sense of humor, and are more than just a little pissed at just about everything that moves. Especially things covered with succulent flesh like we are. I've never heard of a human being killed by bees, but last week, a swarm reportedly killed a horse. So, when you're sitting in an open-cockpit biplane and find a bunch of the manic little guys crowding all around you, it tends to get your attention.

I reasoned that just blasting through them wouldn't work as well as dragging the brakes and putting as much power on it as I dared while I motored through them. It worked because the prop blasted them past, or, if they hit anything, they literally exploded and left waxy streaks all over the airplane. The plane was a real mess.

What I didn't know (and I'm glad I didn't know) was that my student in the back seat was deathly allergic to bee bites and traveled with two (not one) EpiPens with him. His canopy was closed, but the side vents very efficiently funneled bees into his lap. Fortunately, the prop blast slammed them into the vents so hard that he had about 20 bee cadavers in his lap, so he was okay. However, by the time I got stopped and back to him, he was suitably freaked out. He was afraid to look at his lap, and I can't say I blamed him. The consequences could have been terrible: Picture a tiny bubble canopy with 20 angry bees buzzing around in it.

And then there was the time the airport shut down a big section of Bravo taxiway, the one used almost entirely by jets, because a herd of bees had taken up residence on a taxiway light. They were a ball about 18 inches in diameter, and looked incredibly scary. No other adjective fits. Flat scary. They called the bee guys (Bees R Us?), who waited until dusk, when all the workers had commuted home, captured the entire mess, queen and all, and relocated it. African meanies or not, we need bees, so we don't like to see them killed.

At the Copperstate Fly-In a couple years ago, a swarm settled into the outboard strut-to-wing intersection on a Luscombe. So, this poor guy had a basketball of bees attached to his airplane. People surrounded the airplane at a distance and started coming up with different schemes to get them to move. While people were milling around with worried looks on their faces, the owner showed up, took one look, shrugged his shoulders, climbed in the opposite door, fired up and taxied out, bees and all. Duh! None of us thought of that.

And then there was the skunk and my Cherokee. The jackrabbit and the flap ding. The six geese who wanted to commit suicide by Pitts, so they did. This conversation could go on forever, but let's just leave it with the fact that we aren't the only critters Mother Nature created, so it behooves us to get along with, and try to avoid, the rest.

Bee seeing you.


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