Michael McCafferty - European Biplane Tour


Donaueschingen, Germany

I woke up late, still in the spirit of rest from yesterday. The weather just begged to for me to go flying, but it was not to be. Today was reserved for repairs to the plane. The radios have been giving me a lot of trouble with noise. It's not the sort of thing that would cause me to cancel a flight until they are repaired, but it is a nuisance.

Mattias has a mechanic at his home field who is one of those special people who just cannot say "No" to a request for help. And since Mattias asked him to look at my radios, I have the services of a first class mechanic who is also familiar with the Waco YMF-5. He is probably the only one with experience with this airplane on this continent, so I should take advantage of his availability while I can get him.

I drove the 90 minutes to Donaueschingen in Nici's Toyota, only getting slightly lost once. Mike, the mechanic, got down to business quickly and found a ground wire that was "kaput", and fixed it. While he was working on it, I asked him if he could help me with an oil change, and of course he said yes. I have flown more than 50 hours since the last oil change, so it is in serious need of some new oil. And when Mike had everything buttoned up, I pushed my luck a bit and asked him if he knew anyone who could wash my plane, which was revoltingly filthy. True to his reputation, Mike just couldn't say "No", and jumped right in with the help of his daughter, Trina.

So now the plane is looking good and running good. Further preparations included scoping out the charts needed for the next trip and getting together all of the information needed, such as what airports have Customs, when they are open, what frequencies, any active military areas along the way, is fuel and food available, distance to the next stop, weather, etc. etc.

I have gone through this ritual of preparations many times before, and I know that any one of a thousand different things can occur, usually at the last moment, which will change the most carefully detailed plan. It has been suggested that a pilot should be expecting not to fly right up to the moment when his plane lifts into the air, and then to be pleasantly surprised when it actually happens, but only momentarily, because from that moment on he should then be expecting his plane to quit running at any moment and have to execute an emergency landing.

This seems to be a painfully negative view of flying, but the pilot who thinks this way will sooner or later be right, and therefore prepared for the situation. My approach is to prepare as fully as possible for each flight, and "see" it through to completion before I fly, actually visualizing the entire flight including the landing. This way, I am usually right compared with the pessimist's approach of being usually wrong. Therefore, we will only know who is right when things go wrong, but if things don't go wrong, who is right?

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