Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Retreads & Me


We’re wearing out more than just our airplanes


retreads & meI’m not sure what it means, but this morning I glanced down at the Tail-Dragger Dragger dolly that I use to push/pull my bird from its nest, and I realized that the tires are wearing out. Bald, as it were. I was a little surprised and asked myself, “Exactly how much mileage should we expect from the accessories we surround ourselves with while flying?”
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retreads & me
LOADED WITH CHARACTER. These beloved Justins began life as dress boots; now, after years of daily flying duty, they’re not long for this world.
I’m not sure what it means, but this morning I glanced down at the Tail-Dragger Dragger dolly that I use to push/pull my bird from its nest, and I realized that the tires are wearing out. Bald, as it were. I was a little surprised and asked myself, “Exactly how much mileage should we expect from the accessories we surround ourselves with while flying?”

When looking down at the two fugitives-from-a-coaster-wagon tires, I tried to remember how long ago my first act of each day became pushing an airplane out with this particular apparatus. Five years? Eight? That would be around 2,500 hours, which equates to 2,500 flights, and that’s 5,000 trips to and from the hangar. If you figure 65 feet per trip, then these two 10-inch tires have logged 61 miles while carrying an airplane. I suppose I shouldn’t complain.

Then I glanced at the boots I was wearing. They look even worse than the tow-bar tires do. At one time in their lives, they had been high-end, pointy-toed Justins; fine of line, they had done their duty as dress boots. Then they worked their way down to everyday boot duty, and then they became those that tap dance on rudder bar and brake, earning their keep as my flying partners—this last stage has cost them dearly.

Spending their lives buried in the bowels of my airplane thrashing away at rudder and brakes means the boots are slowly being worn away, giving of themselves to protect my feet: the rudder cables at the ends of the pedals have practically worn through the leather, and the screws in the foot trays have sliced them open above the heels like gutted carp. They’re loaded with character, but they’re not long for this world. They, like my trusty tow-bar tires, are due for replacement.

The airplane is also eating the belt I wear 100% of the time. Or, more properly, the environment the airplane promotes (i.e., sweaty) is eating my belt. This isn’t to say that the airplane is so intense that it squeezes bodily fluids out of my students and me…oh, wait, sorry…that’s exactly what it does. When it’s 105 degrees, and your brain is going 100 miles an hour trying to keep up while your body is being asked to react in thoroughly unnatural ways, you’d have to be made of granite not to sweat profusely. This includes soaking my favorite belt day after day. It’s gone through the soaked/dry cycle so many times that the surface of the leather is beginning to look like Keith Richards’ face. I doubt that it will last another year. This I find surprising because I put new leather on the belt barely 10 years ago. Geez!



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