September 18, 2007
September 18, 2007
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: When Liberty Police Chief Mike Cummings worked for the Houston Police Department, often after work he would go to Westheimer Air Park, rent an airplane and go flying. One particular evening he invited a friend to fly with him to Brenham for dinner. Brenham is an aviation friendly town. Visitors are welcome and accommodations include the Southern Flyer Diner, a 1950’s style restaurant with a patio that faces the runway. Lots of folks come there to watch planes take off and land and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and great food. The airport contributes $3.3 million per year to the community and was awarded Airport of the Year in 2004. I enjoy visiting with Chief Cummings and get a kick out of his animated storytelling. So here it is, from the source.
Chief Cummings: I started the engine and just before taxiing to the run-up area my buddy dropped something on the floor. There’s not much room in a Cessna 172 so he had to step out to find whatever it was he dropped. Once he was back in and the door shut I went on to the run-up area. Checking flight controls and instruments everything looked fine. But as I increased the RPMs for the magneto check, suddenly we heard Bang! Bang-Bang-Bang! A thorough re-check of all instruments told me nothing was amiss. But then I decreased the throttle and the noise went away. Figuring all was good, we took off for Brenham.
Shortly after take-off however, the noise returned. Bang! Bang-Bang! More concerned now that we were in the air, I said, “You look outside. See if anything’s falling off the airplane. I’ll check the instruments.” Nothing registered out of the ordinary and my passenger didn’t report any de-parting, but the noise didn’t go away this time so I did what any prudent captain would do, I prepared for an emergency landing.
Being nightfall, Highway 290 looked like the best alternative to a runway. Bang! Bang-Bang! “We’re going down,” I shouted. Descending to 1400’…1200’…1000’ above the highway now, my passenger suddenly gasps, “Ah! I think it’s my seatbelt!” Quickly, he opened the door to confirm and retrieve the wayward noisemaker.
Shoving the throttle in quickly I gave it full power to return to 3,000’, relieved we didn’t have to land on 290. Can’t you just imagine the FAA investigator? “And just what caused this emergency landing, Mr. Cummings? What’s this? A seatbelt?”
Linda: If you fly, the moral of the story is, remember to read your checklist–it includes safety belts and shoulder harnesses. If you don’t fly you might want to note that Chief Cummings is keenly interested in seat belts being fastened, in the air and on the ground.
Mike: I can picture his decent to 290, hoping to clear the traffic. What an impromptu air show. Perhaps the Chief will be attending this year’s Wings Over Houston air show at Ellington Field October 6 and 7. First one to spot him there gets a prize–you get to ride with the Chief.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com