Carl Gets Caught
Carl had been flying to little airports all over the State and up into Virginia either by himself or with Grover or Buddy or Paul. The similarities between sea charts and airway maps had made it relatively easy enough for him to navagate, and he had read the manual closely and it had been done before that people had just gotten airplanes and learned how to fly them starting with the people who had built them.
He had made a few mistakes and had some close calls and it had helped that he was a big man and some of the pilots mechanics or linemen that he had run into who sensed that he actually didn’t have a license had made some oblique suggestions at various places and times where he had shown up.
Harvey the mechanic who had come over from Raleigh with a Stearman he had bought which was cheaper to park at the field half way between Oxford and Durham, that it was for him at RDU, where he worked for Eastern Airlines had done Carl a big favor by talking with him about carburetors so that when Carl had first been flying in early humid summer air and his engine had started rumbling oddly he remembered Harvey looking him in the eye with one eye arched up and a bead of focused critical eyeball asking Carl if he knew what would shut his engine down.
That was after they had been talking for awhile early on the middle of that first 12. Harvey was a small man of great intensity and absolute practical views. He was 45 and his face was lined and brown and he was one of those people who actually appears and does have thick skin so much so that it carries over into their ablity to say anything they feel important to say for practical reasons and does not necessarily ever talk to anyone for fun.
His job was to make sure that airplanes did not fall out of the sky because of anything he did, or had done, and he signed his name many times a day to forms and made or looked over log books at initials and signing his own and he was looked up to by the mechanics he worked with because he was a great mechanic and when he was mean about it it meant something because he had no problem saying, "If I sign off and it falls out of the air, you’ll wish you were on it."
During the War Harvey had been the Chief Mechanic on the Independence a Carrier that sent Mitchells B24s early on bombing Japan. His pilots loved him because the engines ran under his care till they were out of gas or you were shot up and that was about all the security they were going to get.
Harvey had flown the Stearman in and parked it and tied it down and was looking around to see if his wife’s car was in the parking lot yet.
He watched a red Taylorcraft come straight in with no downleg and wobble over correcting for the crosswind that disappeared as soon as you came down past the treeline that took it away. He noted that as hot as the pilot landed he needed every bit of the runway and then some.
Harvey had watched many a take off and landing so he had a real good idea of what the pilot knew or did not know.
Carl sat in the plane with his feet on the brakes for a minute and thought about doing a touch and go to see if he could do it better, but thought better of it. It was the sort of thinking process that made him good at poker.
Best to not push your luck.
So he taxied to the tie down noting the short man in the tight leather jacket smoking a cigarette by the Fuel Shack where there was a picnic table and a preflight desk and the phone.
When Carl walked toward the parking lot Harvey was still waiting for his wife to pick him up and take him home to Raleigh. His plan was to turn the Stearman into a crop duster for tabacco farmers since if a plane wasn’t going to make him some money he had no real need for it and wouldn’t justify it.
Carl nodded to Harvey as he walked towards the Ford he had driven out to the airport. Buddy had bought it to sell and Carl had borrowed it from the station because the fuel pump on his Pontiac had gone out. He didn’t like the Ford as well as he like the Pontiac but could see why some people did since it did have a strong engine.
Harvey nodded back and dropped his cigarette and stepped on it and looked back up at Carl who was still walking and said, "Crosswind was strong wasn’t it."
Carl was not quick to stop since he was of two minds, one a little rattled from the struggle landing in the crosswind which had been more severe than the had prevously had to deal with and wondering what to do with himself for the night.
Harvey saw his wife pull up in the Ford. He looked over at her and Carl and said, "I’m looking to do some crop dusting."
Carl was standing between Harvey and the parking lot and the cars and the planes and on the grass and held out his hand and they shook hands.
"I’m Carl Dunham."
Phyliss sat in the car and lit a cigarette and then got out of the car and walked toward Harvey and the tall man who were talking now about the weather.
"Cold and the engine runs good but this time of the year when the weather is changing you can get blown around like in March or when the July thunderstorms are around."
"You live nearby?" Carl asked, looking over at the woman in heels and in a long coat her blonde hair pulled up like a movie stars picking her way and her stepts towards them in the gravel and on whatever solid ground pressed paths she could find and finally stopping when she came to Harvey and gave him a little kiss and said, "Sorry I’m late."
Havey said. "This is my wife Phyliss."
Phyliss was taller than Harvey.
Phyliss shook Carl’s hand and said, "Nice to meet you."
Then she turned to Harvey and said, "Where is there to eat around here. I’m hungry."
Carl said, "What sort of food do you like? Turners is a good steak place downtown."
"A steak sounds good to me." Harvey said.
Carl was looking at Phyliss and thinking she was more sexy than she ought to be married to the man he was looking at. He was intriqued and didn’t really have to be anywhere though and there was a waitress at Turners who he sometimes had flirted with.
"I’m hungry myself." Carl said, "Do you want to follow me?"
Harvey let Phyliss drive following Carl to the restaurant.
"How was your flight?" She said squinting a little to keep up with the car infront of her that she was following on the two lane country road. One of the reasons Harvey had married her was that she was a good driver and beautiful and happily practical whereas he was not so happy but mostly practical and wanted her around because she was genetically happy.
"I enjoyed watching that guy nearly crash."
"You’re horrible." She said.
"I’d be horrible if I enjoyed watching crashes, watching an almost crash is alright."
Phyliss laughed because she liked it when Harvey was drowl.
When they pulled into the parking lot of Turners it was getting colder and the wind was blowing some and they hustled into the place without much conversation other than Carl saying, "I hope you like it."
It had a bar and a dining room of dark wood and booths and they sat in a booth and Carla came with menus and brought them beers and Harvey lit cigarette after cigarette and Phyliss drank a Gin and Tonic and a Scotch and water and Harvey drank beer and Carl drank beer and they talked about where they had been during the war.
"So you got out of the Navy and bought that plane and you’ve never had a lesson." Harvey said before he put his fork into a piece of the steak that was on his plate.
"Yeah." Carl said.
"How long you had that plane?"
"Since November." Carl answered.
"You’re lucky to be alive." Harvey said.
"Everybody is lucky to be alive." Carl said, and Phyliss laughed.
"You’re going to do what you’re going to do, but I’ll tell you what you need to know about your engine if you like." Harvey said.
Later Harvey met Carl at the airport and told him that it was a good thing he had started flying when it was cold and pointed out to him the toggle that he needed to pull when in the summer the air was full of moisture and ice would need to be heated off the venturi tube in the carbuerator.
Harvey also made Carl to promise to drain the water out of the tanks everytime he flew, and these little admonitions saved Carls life early on in his experiments.