August 11, 2004

MONKEYS AND MISSILE-MEN

My very first flight instructor was walking me out to the trim little Grob 103 sailplane on my very first flight lesson. He said something so downright annoying that it has stayed with me all these years.

"Sky King,' he said, sensing hidden greatness, 'you can train a monkey to fly an airplane. It's judgment we're going to try to teach.'

This of course flew in the face of the carefully nurtured idea that we pilot types are tapped on the forehead at birth by Archangels determined to ensure the survival of all that is good and holy and noble and refined.

So the eternal question of pilot as trained monkey or steely-eyed missile-man has been debated lo these hundred years now, and has finally -' just last week -' been conclusively decided.

So which one is true?

Well, the answer is: apparently, both.

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Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, my oldest friend Steve Stipp, known hereabouts as Great Hairy Silverback, pictured above, obtained his Single Engine Land / Private Pilot certificate just last week. So you can train a monkey to fly.

BUT!

He also scored a 92% on the written test, which makes him a steeley-eyed, weather-savvy, aerodynamically enlightened, radio-familiar, mechanical, electrical and hydraulic savant who is also a 3-D airspace expert. The amount of material you need to know to pass the FAA written test is staggering. I genuinely believe that even the brightest Hollywood Celebrity -- yes, even those who finished High School -- would throw their own pooh at the test screen and storm off smashing American Tourister luggage without getting a single answer correct.

(The instrument rating, which I am almost finished with, is perhaps three times harder. Add weapons systems, combat flight maneuvers, counter-counter-measures, and the ability to fly a fire-breathing mach 2 deathsled called the F-102 Delta Dagger, and you begin to grasp the dimmest outlines of the intelligence it took for that Idiot Moron Chimp George W. Bush to takeoff, fly a mission, and land. Yes, daddy was rich and powerful and well-connected. But there's no back seat in an F-102)

So here's to you, Steve Stipp, old friend: welcome to the small fraternity of people who not only can do it but who have in fact done it.

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Steve -' GHS -' has been the guardian of the comments section for a long time now: a thankless task that involves removing torrents of porno spam, a job made even more loathsome when the occasional Shrieking Moonbat gets clogged in the civility filters. There would not be a comments section without GHS. Steve loves to argue, of course: that's the charm of the man. He tells me -' he admits to it openly!! -' that on long drives he will take a position and argue both sides, aloud, to himself. Steve was also an Air Force Special Ops guy: Combat Control. They parachute in behind enemy lines, call in airstrikes, take a bite out of the cookie and drink the glass of milk just so that bad guys know they were actually there, and then slither out on foot. He also worked the tower at Palm Beach International for a while. I say this only because now that he is a pilot and an air traffic controller, he can argue with himself all day! Yes sir! He will be able to rent a plane, fly out in the middle of nowhere, turn off the radios, and scream at, curse, mutter about and insult himself to his heart's content. It's not often you get to call yourself both an idiot and a moron on a dead radio 4000 feet above the Everglades. But Steve has somehow made it happen.

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Kudos to you, old buddy.

Someday -- after we have finished making the world safe for democracy -- I hope I can spend all my efforts trying to get as many people as possible to take a ride in the left seat to see if they have the bite marks on their neck the next day.

As for me -' who you may remember -' I have been studying an awful lot. And I have been chasing, and chasing, and chasing this TRIBES idea and I can not catch it and I can not move past it. I fear it will be something of a rant. I think the thing to do is perhaps just write the rant and get it out of my system. I have tried very hard to be motivated by higher ideals in these essays, but the fact remains that I am kind of blocked by the fact that I am so damn angry with the celebrities I have to deal with every week at work. It just never ceases to amaze me.

So maybe we should both lower our expectations some. Let me get this out of my system. Consider the next one something of a hairball: the gross little byproduct of an otherwise gleaming and healthy coat of the purest snow-white fur.

Yes, that's not bad. As a rationalization that will do quite nicely. Thanks, brain!

Finally, I'll leave you with some glamour shots -' having long been jealous of my friend Kim Du Toit's expertise and track record in this regard.

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That's Dana standing next to that scruffy and disreputable-looking fellow. Okay, so it's pretty obvious why I'd want to be flying with someone like that. How very deep I am.

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But! As we were flying over a ridge -' that is, as she was flying over a ridge -' we hit some fairly nasty turbulence. Now at this point I usually get out the foam-padded crowbar and pry the passenger's fingernails out of the right-side intstrument panel. But before I could reach for it I heard 'Woo-Hoo!' over the headphones. 'We lost 400 feet! Should I add power?' I nodded, or at least the top of my head did, my chin hanging pretty much on its own. 'That was fun!'

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Actually, it was just the beginning of the fun. With 30 parachute jumps to her credit, she has thirty more than I do. And she flies hang gliders. I never had that kind of nerve.

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So I've been having fun. And just keep in mind, we were in a dry patch essay-wise before I met her, so it's not her fault.

Speaking of which, here's a little joke to tide you over. A student pilot makes a really, really awful landing. Bam! Slams the plane down on the blacktop. The student turns to the instructor and apologizes. The instructor says, 'Son, that landing wasn't your fault. It wasn't my fault. It was the asphalt. '

HA -HAHAHAHAHAHAA!

Pilots'


(oh, and THE BOOK! Almost finished! I have an interesting last-minute offer! Now I need GHS to show me how to start a bidding war agianst myself!)




[SPECIAL ALERT! If anyone knows how to update Movable Type and can show me how, I would be very grateful. Spammers are putting about one thousand pieces of spam into the comments section per day -- bastards! I believe the newer versions of MT have some protection against this. Anyone who can help will be greeted with garlands of flowers and their feet shall be anointed with palm oil.]

Posted by Proteus at 4:38 PM | Comments (119)