Application for an Darwin Award

 

I’m thinking of applying for a Darwin Award, I think over the years I have carried out several acts that should put me in a position to be a possible candidate. So you don’t know what the Darwin Award is all about? Well, it’s given out to people who commit incredible stupid acts.

 

One such incident that I recall, happened some time ago and should partially qualify me. It happened when I was a trainee pilot at Taieri Air Port, I was off flying solo in a Tiger Moth. The day was dull, raining and the sky was nearly fully clagged in, with low cloud. But I saw a hole in the cloud cover, through it I caught a glimpse of another world, and the sun. Tempted, and although thoroughly inexperienced, I didn’t need any urging. I climbed through the open pathway and entered into a bright new world. Sunshine, snowy towering clouds, in fact a wonderland. All mine, and mine alone to explore. However, when I considered it was time to return, the hole was no where to be seen, gone! This was really serious, the Air Port was in a basin and surrounded by high mountains. Exactly where I was now in relation to the mountains, I didn’t have a clue. The mantras we had been taught came flooding back to me. ‘There are Old Pilots, and Bold Pilots’, but no Old Bold Pilots’. And another, ‘There are rocks in clouds’. To get out of my predicament, I flew due East for some time which now meant I was out over the sea. I let down only to find New Zealand was no where in sight. Flew back due West and found my aerodrome again, only to discover my Instructor pacing up and down because I was now overdue. I never confessed to him what stupid thing I had done. But now, I was more than a little wiser. Many pilot when training did stupid things, but never confessed.

 

Another time when overseas I was doing ‘Air Control’ for night flying. The planes flying were faster, and a little more sophisticated. It wasn’t the custom to use the tower for this task, but a truck with a partial glass enclosure. This was parked in the line of fire so to speak, located at end of the strip, close as possible to the action. You were given this task for any misdemeanours, or just plain military volunteering. ‘You are the controller tonight. OK?’. I was armed with a ‘Very pistol’, loaded with red flares, as well an ‘Aldis’ Lamp, as we didn’t run to radios. I was now in sole charge of the Air Port. This particular night was cold and frosty, very still. I had just given an Aircraft on it’s finals, a ‘Green’, signifying he Run Way was clear and it was OK to land. But when he glided in closer, over and above the engine noise and the whistle of his oncoming Aircraft, I could hear a claxton horn. I couldn’t see the aircraft in the dark, only its navigation lights. I knew immediately what was wrong. Hooters were fitted just above the pilot’s ear, designed to give the pilot a loud reminder blast should he throttle back with his undercarriage still in the retracted position. This Pilot was actually ignoring the overpowering noise. So I fired a red flare at him. I actually hit the propeller, this immediately turned the aircraft into a red ball. Not exactly the correct procedure, I suppose I scared about ten years growth out of the forgetful pilot. However, he quickly recovered from the shock, throttled up and disappeared into the night, going round again. I never knew who the stupid pilot was as he escaped into the dark.

 

One day I received a call from my Sister. Could I drop what ever I was doing and come over immediately. She had an opossum or similar small animal trapped in her home’s ceiling space. Hurry up too as it was busy chewing through the ceiling plaster. What it would do once it got loose in the house, was something we didn’t even wish to think about. After putting a chair on a table I was able to reach the opossum and pulled a back leg through the hole it had made. I then tied a walking stick tightly to a back leg and proceeded to pull the little ‘beastie’ through the hole. I was now about to find out now the true meaning of the word ‘possum’ which the animal had been playing until now. Suddenly I had about seven pounds of angry spitting scratching, screaming, mean critter, half in and half out of the ceiling hole. I didn’t know what to do, I wasn’t making a good job of what I was now doing. So I immediately switched to plan ‘B’. Reaching for my rifle which I had also brought along and shot the opossum. Wonderful! I now had two holes in the slate roof, one made by the animal, one by the exiting bullet. This wasn’t one of my brightest acts, but the animal was now dead. I don’t think this was the sort of result my sister had called for. It could be worth consideration for an award.

 

Another act I was involved in happened during preparation for solo night flying. In our time air craft were fitted with only limited instruments. Night flying was something that you needed to bring all of your skills to bear. The most dangerous time was on ‘takeoff’. You lined up on the runway which was lit with about couple of dozen kerosene flares. Uncage you directional aid, then with full throttle run down the flare pathway. Once the last flare went under your wing, you were in a black void, so there was no need to look outside, but give the instrument panel your full attention. I was doing practice ‘take offs’ the instructor was in a bad mood giving me a hard time. I was flustered, and committed the cardinal sin and neglected to uncage the directional Gyro. The instructor had also been extremely neglectful too, he had forgotten to fit his control column from where it was placed, should the aircraft be in a solo mode. When he went to grab the ‘Stick’, he considered too that his time was up. We managed to stagger into the air and I put this down to more good luck than experience. We both agreed after this narrow squeak that we would never discuss this episode again, certainly not with our superiors.

 

Sure I have made many mistakes in my life, but I never repeated any of them, and I’m still alive. I considered I was richer for experience from some of the many situations that I got myself into.

 

 

 

 

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