It was one of the rare perfect weather days we get in Western Oklahoma, and then my younger brother called – the youngest of the infamous “Kivans” (see previous post “Meet the Kivans”) . From that point on I knew it would no longer be typical. For most of my life any day spent with either of the Kivans usually meant a legendary family story in the making. This day was no different.
He wanted me to take him flying to look at some oil field locations where his truckers were working. He also wanted his son-in-laws to go since they had never flown in a small plane. That all suited me because I also wanted to look for the herd of wild pigs that was destroying one of our grass meadows.
After a couple of passes down the river we spotted more than 30 wild pigs in a small feed patch. I called Mr. HH, my “coulda been worse” son-in-law, on the radio. He and my daughter grabbed a rifle and camera to go on a pig stalk while we continued our flight.
On the return back to the very short local airport I decided to mess with my back seat passengers. Now normally a practical joke such as this would require a good partner to help sell it and a bit of rehearsal beforehand. However, my brother is a natural and you can always depend on him to run with, and expand upon, any practical joke. But I guess I did not realize he evidently has some residual fear of flying that I had not noticed on all our previous trips. With the intercom open so all passengers could hear, the conversation went something like this:
Me: “Oh crap…”
Him: “What’s wrong?”
Me: “I can’t remember the power settings for a short field landing with four people in the plane…”
Him: “What?” or more accurately “WHAT????”
Both backseat passengers: “What?” and then to each other, “What did he say?”
Me: “See if you can find the manual in the glove box so I can look up the power settings and figure out how to land on this short field, ok?”
Now normally with my brother this is the point where I turn the practical joke over to him. I just set up the premise and he runs with it. Instead what I got was the following:
Him: “YOU FORGOT WHAT??” with a deer-in-the-headlights look and a frantic scrambling for the aircraft manual.
His panic and all the scrambling around from the back seat was causing the light plane to sway back and forth. I later asked what all the moving around was about in the back. One passenger said he was trying to unbuckle the seat belt of the other guy and open the door. When I asked why, he said he was thinking, “Maybe he knows how to land with three in here.”
Between that and my Brother tearing through the pages of the operating manual I decided this was getting out of hand. He was turning the pages so fast that the breeze generated was causing my vision to blur. I put my hand on the manual and shook my head to calm him before he totally shredded the document.
Besides, I needed to concentrate on landing. The strip is very short and begins right along a county road. Someone had stopped on the road to watch the landing. This is normal since there is very little aircraft traffic on the strip and any landing usually brings out an observer.
Then my cell phone started to vibrate with a text message that I tried to ignore. I later found out the message said “pig down need help”, but at that point I was a little busy to care.
I finally got the phone stopped and the brother calmed down as we were on short final about to flare for landing when the car just pulled off the road, across the ditch, and onto the end of the runway—right where I intended to land. Later I found out he was going to fly his remote controlled airplane from the same runway where I need to land the real one. I never did understand why he needed his car to be on the runway.
By then I forgot all about the practical joke and had to concentrate on not having a bad ending to such a good day. Fortunately, my lifetime habit of always assuming that people will do the dumbest thing possible saved the day. I had anticipated the possibility of this and was able to apply full power, avoid a collision and even had enough time to move over a bit so as to not give the driver a heart attack when we zoomed beside him instead of over him.
However, that little incident on top of the joke I tried to pull on my passengers was a bit much. The climb out and subsequent second landing attempt was uneventful except for one thing. In my entire life that is the longest stretch of silence from my Brother Kivan---ever.
The rest of evening was spent loading the wild pigs the son-in-law got and listening to the Kivan tell about the great joke he pulled on his son-in-laws. He spent hours telling about the wide eyed look he got from them when he started going through the manual. He still denies the frightened face he saw was his reflection in the windshield. But the part about them being scared is probably true. I doubt they had ever seen him move so fast or be so quiet.
--Post by Mr. H