Baron - 4
Baron - 3
Baron - 2
Baron - 1
the Cassutt - 2
Up in WV
Rico - 2
on the Roof
The Places You'll Go
most pilots consider the hours they have logged in the air, the
time usually remains just hours to them. The recorded flights
are remembered as a cross country, or as an instrument flight,
or as the hour spent learning recovery from unusual attitudes.
But as time aloft accumulates it can also be viewed using other
measurements. By the time a student pilot has qualified for his
Private License, has gained a bit of experience and is ready to
begin learning to fly the airplane on instruments, he has
probably spent about a week apart from the surface of the earth.
That would be a total of seven twenty four hour days spent
hanging suspended above the earth, or 168 hours total. Later, at
the 500 hour milestone our pilot has been missing from the earth
for over two and a half weeks, and on the day he logs his one
thousandth hour he will have spent a total of more than forty
one twenty four hour days someplace other than on the planet
where he was born.
Those of us who have flown most of
our lives as a profession rack up a prodigious amount of hours
in the air and the high timers among us have lived aloft
literally for years.
As does any endeavor that
requires humans to live in an alien environment, spending large
blocks of time airborne requires planning for the physiological
needs that occur for all of us, such as eating, sleeping and
yes, going to the bathroom. Of the three primary needs
mentioned, two can be fudged a bit. All of us have flown when
hungry enough to eat a hobby horse and most have been in the air
when so fatigued we needed to hold our eyes open with our
fingers. But going to the bathroom as we all know, is something
with finite limits.
can remember numerous 'high pressure' situations in the years I
was spending huge amounts of time in the sky and most of them
ended well, with a heartfelt sigh of gratitude in some FBO's
rest room. But a few didn't.
One occasion was more
embarrassing than critical and it occurred during a sales trip
while I was working as a Demonstration Pilot for Cessna. On this
day we were doing a demo business trip in a new 414 with a small
company's CEO and his wife. The plan du jour was for Ernie, my
fellow Zone demo pilot to fly the trip, while I remained back in
the cabin with the customers to answer any questions and to sell
the advantages of business travel, 'private and pressurized'.
We had departed Atlanta in air as smooth as glass made
only smoother by Ernie's touch on the controls. Fifteen minutes
into the flight I was pouring coffee for our customers to
demonstrate the crème de la crème of business
aircraft ownership; having what you want when you want it. As
the hot liquid from the refreshment center splashed into the
cups I'd placed on the folding executive tables, it suddenly hit
me. I. Had. To. Pee.
Oh no, I thought, this can't be
true. We had just left Atlanta and we have two and a half hours
to go, before I can go. This was not like me; I normally had
range equal to the range of whatever I was flying, but not this
Well, I thought, this is obviously my mind
playing games with me and I can defeat it. I will think positive
thoughts and take positive and complete control of the bladder
that is trying to ruin my demo.
I renewed my
conversation with my customers at a desperate pace that must
have seemed to them as if a giant vacuum cleaner was sucking up
the details of their life. We spoke of their business and of
their history, and I shared everything that I could recall about
my life that had nothing to do with my bladder. I directed a
stream of consciousness like a fire hose at my ever more wary
looking customers which was designed more to take my mind off my
ever stretching bladder than to make sense. Thirty minutes later
I was defeated. I had to go.
I confessed to my
customers the nature of my problem and they looked somewhat
relieved to find that my erratic behavior had a physical and not
414 was equipped with a potty in the very rear of the cabin and
what little privacy available was in the form of a simple
curtain which could be slid across the end of the cabin.
thin curtain in place I elected to use the relief tube rather
than the potty, which was basically a bucket with a plastic bag
in it, hidden under a flip up seat. The relief tube was just
that, a funnel with a tube leading to the outside that relied on
the higher cabin pressure to move the liquid to the outside when
a lever on the funnel was depressed. I had used them many times
when flying alone or with other pilots, but never with customers
in the airplane and the noise that the tube made had never
registered with me.
Relieving oneself in the air is no
different than the earthbound process in that once started it is
difficult to impossible to stop, and this time was no exception.
But to my horror once I started the relief tube sounded like a
foursome of teen agers getting the last of their milkshake from
the bottom of their cups. It sucked like outer space and not the
atmosphere was on the outside of the airplane and the noise of
the liquid being spewed out of the aircraft seemed to me to
blank out even the sound of the engines. I briefly considered
removing the aft bulkhead and spending the remaining flight in
the tail cone, but eventually I returned red faced to my equally
embarrassed customers to complete the ill fated flight.
question though, my most outstanding moment in dealing with
airborne potty breaks came during a flight from western Iowa
back to West Virginia in a just purchased P35 Bonanza. The
airplane was equipped with tip tanks and I knew I could easily
make the trip nonstop. I fueled, preflighted and bought a cold
coke for intake on this very warm day and in order to extend my
own range, I found an empty coke bottle for output.
was ready to leave when a minor mechanical problem delayed me
for two hours or so. Finally airborne and level at nine thousand
feet I remembered the Coke and took a several swallows of the
now warm beverage. About an hour later I needed a bathroom break
and I carefully and successfully used the empty Coke bottle
while the autopilot flew the airplane.
It was a
beautiful summer day with almost unlimited visibility and with
just a few puffy cumulus clouds a few thousand feet below me.
The airplane was running perfectly, the autopilot was doing a
stellar job of flying it in the smooth air, and I was left to my
idle thoughts. Ever watchful for traffic and with eyes on the
horizon, I reached for my Coke, unscrewed the cap and took long
and thoughtful drink.
I've read that urine is sterile
and that in an emergency one can stay alive by drinking it and
I've even watched it being done on survival shows. All of this
flashed through my mind as I tried not to spit what was left in
my mouth on the instrument panel. I was able to get the
remainder back in the bottle and after finding the real Coke I
used it to flush my mouth. For five minutes just sat and
concentrated on not throwing up.
like to think that I continue to learn as a pilot and it gives
me a good feeling to return from a flight knowing something that
I didn't know before. This certainly counts as one of those
flights, and to this day I never drink anything out of a bottle
without looking at it first.