Since this story was written, Daryl has become a private pilot, built his own RV-9A, and taken several lengthy trips in it. But there was a time when he was new and green…
When our company sends its fleet of kitbuilt airplanes to the big fly-ins, we often take people from the office and shop. It gives them a chance to meet customers, get out of the daily grind and generally expand their horizons. Most are not pilots and for many, it’s their first long trip in a small airplane.
Daryl has done almost every job there is in our production shop, and currently works in the office, scheduling production and dealing with vendors. He’s been the company for more than twenty-five years, and this year, it’s his chance to do the Oshkosh thing. We pair him up with GM Tom Green and send them off a day early, so they can handle the miserable high-heat, high-humidity, hard-work set-up details in Wisconsin. Daryl knows exactly why he’s been “granted” this early release from his desk, but he’s game…it’ll be an adventure.
So, early Thursday morning, the two tall guys settle into the RV-9A, start the engine, and sail off toward the just-visible sunrise and their first stop, some three hours away in Burley, Idaho. Tom makes Daryl do most of the flying and Daryl’s having a good time, steering the airplane and watching the scenery change from forest to high desert as it slides along underneath him. He’s hunted everything from chukkars to elk in this country, and it’s really interesting to see how it folds and flows and winds and twists. Can’t beat that birds-eye view. They follow the Snake River into Burley, Daryl finds the airport, Tom makes the landing and Daryl finds out why airplanes stop in Burley… the competing FBOs send out pretty girls on golf carts to guide you to their set of pumps. Well, he thinks, this cross-country flying stuff is pretty cool. You fly a nice airplane over beautiful country and when you land, cute girls in crisp T-shirts and shorts come out to meet you.
But, business before pleasant conversation. The tanks must be filled, and three plus hours after morning lift-off, bladders must be emptied. Tom claims the right of greater age and heads for the only bathroom while Daryl waits for the fuel truck. Eventually he emerges and Daryl takes his spot. In fact, they’d gotten off so early that they’d never even shaved and barely managed coffee before takeoff, so a late breakfast would definitely hit the spot. A decent tailwind had made the leg shorter than usual, so there’s plenty of time to eat and still get to Wisconsin. While Daryl’s ensconced, Tom asks at the desk about a courtesy car so they can get into town for a plate of eggs and Idaho spuds. Many small airports have an old clunker, often a retired police or city vehicle, that they keep at the airport. Traveling pilots are welcome to use it to get to a restaurant or motel as long as they put some gas in it before they bring it back. What’s available in Burley?
“Our courtesy car’s broke down again,” the fuel guy says. But he’s a friendly sort, so he tells Tom “the keys are in my Chevy Blazer…it’s that tan one down at the end of the parking lot, by the gate. Just take it and go.”
Which gives Tom an idea.