It was a picture-perfect early February day in Michigan — clear blue sky, calm wind, 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It was even better because there was no snow on the grass strip. But a storm was forecast to bring 12 inches of snow the next day. That much snow would shut down my flying for days or weeks. I had 90 minutes of free time and full use of my friend Doug’s Cessna 172 Skyhawk. I thought I’d better make a short hop and enjoy this good weather.
As I started the car, I remembered my sunglasses were in the garage. I got out of the car, leaving the door open, and retrieved the glasses. By the time I came back my daughter’s dog, Rascal, a calm, intelligent, 60-pound blue heeler, was in the passenger seat ready for a car ride. Well, I thought, I’d only be up for a little while and he could rest in the car.
Maple Grove Airport is a beautiful grass strip among farm fields and woods, so while I preflighted the airplane, I let Rascal out of the car to run around and attend to dog business. While I was checking the oil, Rascal jumped into the cockpit and assumed his normal place in the “car’s” passenger seat, ears erect, looking out the windshield with anticipation. He looked quite happy. Dick Karl often writes about flying with his golden retriever, so why not take Rascal for a short ride?
Rascal sensed that something was different with this car ride when I yelled “clear prop!” and the propeller blades started to move. His ears went from “up” to “half mast.” As I back-taxied to the active, I pulled the yoke all the way back to take weight off the nose gear. Rascal did not approve of the copilot yoke coming right into his seat. The ears were fully down now. I reasoned that it would be much more enjoyable for him once we were in straight-and-level flight.
Oh, how wrong I was. Rascal quickly discovered that he had no love of aviation and did not like his seat tipping, bouncing or tilting. His eyes were wide with fear, and he had no place to go but the back seat. I worried about weight and balance problems with 60 pounds of dog jumping back and forth. I also worried about the possibility of Rascal urinating out of fear on Doug’s immaculate seats. Both of these worries paled in comparison to what came next: Rascal wanted out now. He became a berserk missile, leaping from back to front, over and over, and trying to get onto my lap, hitting the instruments with his head and then trying to dive onto the floor. Thinking of what he would do to the rudders made me grab him by the collar just in time. This did nothing to increase Rascal’s love of flying, but it did make me feel safer.