Hidden Talent

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I have often marveled at the illustrations that John Borra does for my articles. Some topics have obvious possibilities, but others don't seem to lend themselves to an illustration. In fact, more than once I have sent my article in wondering what on earth John would come up with, and every time I have been amazed at how creative and appropriate his illustration was. It turns out that illustrations are not John's only talent.

Earlier this year John sent me some limericks he had written about aviation safety. As I read through them I realized that they represented a summary of many of the articles I have written for Flying over the past 14 years. Since a few humorous and poetic words can sometimes be much more effective at getting the point across than many lines of text, I decided to share his "Pleasant Limericks to Dwell Upon" with Flying's readers. The limericks are copyrighted by John, so if you would like permission to use them, please contact him at cumulus@eaglecom.net.

Every flight starts with a preflight. In August 1996 I wrote about the importance of carefully checking the full range of control movement ("Check Your Controls"). The following month I emphasized the importance of a final walk around the airplane, particularly if there has been a delay in your departure ("Final Check"). In many cases of items missed during a preflight, the pilot was in a big hurry to get going ("Slow Down!", January 1996). John summed it all up very nicely in five simple lines:

Long checklists were not to the taste

Of a pilot with no time to waste.

On climb-out he found

His ailerons bound

By a lock overlooked in his haste.

Poor preflight planning or a general lack of understanding lead to accidents every year when pilots take off in a heavily loaded airplane at a high elevation airport in hot weather. In "Déjà Vu" (March 2005), I extolled the value of using Microsoft Flight Simulator to experience the effect John talks about in his next limerick from the safety of your own home:

When ambient air is too warm,

Poor climb rates are always the norm.

No pilot can win

When the air is too thin

And airplanes refuse to perform.

John points out that the effects of high density altitude are made even worse by the gusty wind conditions often prevalent during the summer months:

When it's gusty and virga is near,

Prepare for a nasty wind shear.

For if gauges unwind,

You may otherwise find

A quick end to your flying career.

Once safely in the air, there are numerous ways pilots manage to get themselves into trouble. One of the most common involves a non-instrument rated pilot continuing into instrument conditions. In April 1993 I examined "Straying Outside the Rules," and then in February 2000 I started a series of five articles on the importance of "Turning Back." Here is how John described the typical result of continuing on into worsening conditions if you are not instrument rated:

In thickening clouds he was caught,

Though his skill on the gauges was naught.

The spiral, he found,

Led straight to the ground

And the proverbial farm that he'd bought. Continued>>>

The next limerick struck home, as it was just a couple of months ago that I wrote about spending New Year's Day searching for a pilot who it turned out had flown into rising terrain at night not far from my home ("Terrain Awareness," May 2006). I also discussed this topic way back in February 1996, in an article on "Avoiding CFIT":

Mountains and weather can cause quite

a plight

For VFR pilots cross-country at night.

So be well aware,

When you take to the air,

Of terrain elevations and limited sight.

I was amazed at how well John's limerick summed up the point of my article on "Playing With Ice" (April 2003), that it is so easy to get complacent after "getting away with it" many times:

This winter a pilot sans caution

Will bore through the clouds once too often.

Gaining plenty of rime,

Losing options and time,

He'll go down in an ice-laden coffin.

"How Low Will You Go?", in the October 1995 issue, related the experience of Flying readers who had explored the dark side of scud running and lived to talk about it. John's limerick describes a different outcome:

There once was a pilot so crazy

He headed through foothills quite hazy.

He lost sight of the ground,

But the mountains he found,

Where now he lies pushing up daisies.

In February 1997 I pointed out that many times a pilot will wait until he is deep into a thunderstorm before initiating a 180-degree turn ("Don't Wait Til It's Too Late!"). John's limerick takes the positive approach of a pilot who uses the Conservative Response Rule to avoid thunderstorms by a wide margin:

I know a good pilot who cowers

When clouds become great cauliflowers.

He prefers skirting the hail,

The lightning and gale

To a hearse ride and bouquets of flowers.

Even after a pilot arrives safely and prepares for landing there are traps ready to spoil a wonderful flight. In "Late Again!" (March 1997), I pointed out that many pilots wait until it is far too late to initiate a go-around:

If on final your airspeed is hot,

You'll wind up in a ticklish spot.

You can bleed off what's wrong

If the runway is long,

But be safe and go 'round if it's not.

I wrote many articles about the wisdom of learning from the experience of others, so we don't make the same mistakes ourselves. These include "Risk Manager" (July 1993); "Sudden Loss of Judgment" (August 1993); "Rush to Judgment" (March 1996); "Make Yourself Vulnerable" (July 1996); "Listen to Warnings" (September 2003); and "Safety Angels" (November 2003).

John's final limerick sums up the theme of these and so many other articles over the years. It is based on the saying that "there are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots":

I know a young pilot quite bold,

Who will heed not a word he is told.

When he takes to the air,

I say a quick prayer,

For it's certain he'll never grow old.

I'm sure that these limericks have gotten the creative juices of our readers going. If you have a good limerick about aviation that could help get the point across, please send it to me at:

Flying Magazine, 1633 Broadway, 45th Floor, New York, NY 10019, or e-mail me at: flyedit@hfmus.com.