You Couldn't Make This Stuff Up

Years ago, I was in a job the required I fly to distant places from Topeka, KS. Just so you will know, there is currently no airline serving the Kansas Capitol city.  Back then, there was one airline company that flew regularly out of Forbes Field and for the remainder of this story will be knows s Capitol Scareways.  

I have flown in serious airplanes and some not so serious.  I have taken on and off from small fields and the longest runway in Kansas.  In Vietnam, a bird dog would land on the perforated steel planking (PSP) runway behind our headquarters and take off in what was the shortest runway in Vietnam.  This is just to help you understand I am not a novice about flying and  not some fraidy cat.

On one particularly long trip, I flew back into KCI just about dark and was forced to take the red bus (a shuttle) to one of the furthest Terminals.  The Capital Scareways desk was located clear down in the end and when I got there, no one was near the desk.  I did have about 45 minutes so I just visited the can and found a seat.  About 20 minutes before the scheduled flight, a young kid showed up and turned on the lights over the desk.  I could tell there were about four or five other people that were getting kind of antsy.  We all got in line and gave the guy our bags.  He put them on a cart and about five minutes before take of time he put everything in an elevator and off he went.  One of the other passengers started to go down a set of stairs to the flight line.  When we all just followed, we wound up in a very deserted part of the air field and there sat an old stretch Cessna airplane.  I think the fact the young man was loading what looked like our bags in the plane made us all feel like it was where we were supposed to be.  There wasn't anyone or anything to tell us that but hey no big deal.  After all, I was a Colonel and pretty good at making command decisions.

When the bags were all stowed, the young man told us to get in the plane.  I was in the second row of seats behind the pilot station and wondered where the pilot was.  As we boarded the plane, the co-pilot seat was tipped forward to give us more room to enter. Well, the young man that had done all the work got in the seat in front of me and acted like he knew what he was doing.   My first sign that things were not up to standard was the fact that when he turned on the master power switch, only about half of the gauges on the dash were illuminated.  I swear he took a flashlight out of a brief case and used it to set the frequencies on the radio.  

We taxied out to the take off point and I was not too thrilled that we had at least a 10 mph cross wind. The pilot told the tower we were in position and got the litany of barometer reading, wind direction, speed and clearance to take off.  The pilot threw the power lever forward and off we went.  At what should have been fast enough to lift off the ground, he pulled back on the controls.  We lifted about three feet and went sideways about ten.  He put it back down on the runway and tried it again. Same result, up then sideways and back down.  The third time he tried it, we were about to start running off the runway because I could see the lights on the edge of the runway just under the side of the little plane. He sat it down again and I thought he would shut it down.  He realized the co-pilot seat was in the way of the control yoke on that side of the plane, he reached over and put the seat back into the upright position and took off  as if nothing had happened.  Jesus Christ on a crutch, I wondered what his preflight check list had said about that.  I am sure that had all the lights been on  he would have seen the problem and it would have never happened.

I was just resigned to try to keep my blood pressure in check when the door we had crawled in popped open.  The guy by that door was about to go crazy when the pilot calmly told him that it happens al the time and asked him to hold it shut the rest of the way to Topeka.  It wasn't going to blow off or anything, it was just annoying.  That guy white knuckled it all the way back to Topeka but it didn't pop open again.

When we got to Forbes field, there was no one there.  It was late Sunday night and the Pilot again had to park the plane, unload the bags and put them on a cart.  He didn't even put the bags on a carousel he just pushed the cart into the terminal.  I think we were all getting off in Topeka and there wasn't anyone to even start to complain to. 

I went out to my car and went home.  The next day I sent the same story to the FAAS and it wasn't long before there was again no air service in the Topeka terminal.  We returned to the days where we drove to the Kansas City Airport and got on real planes there.  Perhaps I will tell you about the flying culvert I flew to Little Rock, AR the next time.


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