Thursday, April 02, 2009

Needles, Guns, Coke and Cash

We've been flying for a while tonight. I'm back on the main tanks after running enough out of the outboards that they won't spill through the vents in hard turns, but I'm not yet pumping fuel from the auxiliary tanks, so that's somewhere between two and three hours under my system. It's very dark to the north and the lights on the ground create a false horizon making me bank about two degrees when I look out the window, and the AI is off by about that much too, so I have to keep crosschecking the flight instruments to keep the airplane right side up. At least the air is smooth tonight. Then a voice from the back asks, "Is your RPM thing supposed to do that?" I look, and the tachometer, a big gauge labelled RPM with two needles on it, shows the needle with the R on it steadily pointing to the second tick past the 20, while the needle with the L on it is oscillating wildly from the 5 back up to match the other one.

I sigh to myself at the airplane and answer calmly, and a little disgustedly, "No, it just does that for a while before it breaks."

The sound of the propellers is steady and all the other engine gauges are normal. There's nothing wrong with the left propeller. It's rotating at 2200 rpm, just as the right one is. The problem lies in the gauge. This is not an uncommon malfunction. The tachometer works because a cable transmits the rotation from the accessory drive to the instrument. I've seen this malfunction a few times in different types. I'm sure I've blogged about it before. Sometimes the telltale oscillation is only by 100 rpm or so. Sometimes it's only present at low RPM or at start up. I know to contact company right away when I see it, and get them to order a new tach cable, because some time in the next twenty hours or so, the tach is going to stop working altogether. In this case, it took only twenty minutes before the needle with the L on lay placidly at the bottom of the instrument. Best case scenario is that the cable has just come disconnected. More likely the cable needs replacing and there are possibilities of a fault with the gauge. Fortunately we are in the US and you can get anything delivered overnight here.

It's not an emergency, nor a reason to abort a flight. It is a no go item for a takeoff, but if the left propeller does anything stupid in flight, I'll now notice the sound before I would have noticed it on the tach, anyway. The propellers continue to rotate normally until I kill the mixtures at shutdown.

After the flight I contact my company PRM to let him know about the problem. I will be looking for maintenance locally, but ask him if he can get me permission to ferry the aircraft with the tach disabled. We meet up with the others for dinner.

In the parking lot, one of my coworkers says quietly, "Hey, that guy just pulled a handgun out of his pocket."

I look around and don't see anything. "What for? What did he do with it?"

"He put it down. He took it out of his hip pocket before sitting in his car. Like guys do with their wallet."

I guess that's what Texas guys do with their guns, too, when they keep them in their back pockets. Does he keep his wallet in the other pocket? In Canada you can have a handgun in your car, but you need a firearms acquisition licence and a separate permit to transport; it has to be unloaded and locked in an opaque container; and you have to be en route between your home, a gun show, firing range or licensed shooting event. It was a 'welcome to Texas' moment for us. We headed off to dinner, me with a Swiss Army knife in my front pocket. I don't know the armament status of the rest of the all-Canadian crew, but I imagine about equal to mine. Also there might be a sledgehammer or an axe in the back of the truck.

The two female members of the party wanted to go to "Billy's Barbeque" an establishment that announces its presence via those shiny stick-on letters you can buy at the hardware store, arranged not too crookedly on a wooden sign on the barbecuer's front lawn. But what says that he's serious is that Billy also has the name of the business hand painted on his van. The general appearance of the establishment (I checked it out earlier by daylight) would suit the Hollywood stereotype as habitation for the crazy guy who subsists on possum pie and moonshine. My rationale is that this is place has clearly been here a while. Locals eat here. And if people got sick here, the whole town would know, and Billy wouldn't be in business anymore. Despite my logic, the male members of the crew vetoed our choice.

We went to another barbecue restaurant instead. it wasn't quite as rustic, but definitely not corporate. They'd used multiply doubled over strings of Christmas lights to make a "neon" sign, and the decor seemed similarly improvised. Inside was a huge space --it might once have been a church hall--but only four tables. The menu had ribs, sausage and brisket available as either a "plate" or a "dinner." it was explained that a plate was lots of was lots of food and a dinner was less. They were out of ribs, so I had sausage. it was fantastic. I swapped a bit for someone else's brisket. Also delicious. Much better than the brisket I tried before at a different barbecue. The potato salad was tasty, too, and garnished with raw onion.

I took the opportunity of dealing with definite Texan people to try another of the Texas experiments I'd been assigned. I'd been told that "Coke" is a generic term in Texas, meaning "carbonated beverage," and that if I asked for a Coke, I'd be asked what sort. So I tried. But the result was not as predicted to me. I was brought a red can of Coca-Cola, no questions asked. I'd repeat the experiment, but I'm only willing to try it when I'm willing to accept an actual Coke, and a carbonated, caffeinated beverage is not my choice immediately before flying or sleep, and those are the main two times when I order food. Mainly because my day is principally composed of flying, sleep and ordering food.

We chatted with the chef. When we told him we were pilots he said he used to deliver furniture for an upscale company in Houston, and tallied on his fingers pilots, professional sports players, doctors, and car dealership owners as the purchasers of high-end furniture and the owners of nice houses. Yep, that's me. Not only is my furniture all either second hand or from Ikea, but some of it is both second hand and from Ikea.

Whoa! A guy on TV was just discussing the economy (or something else I wasn't paying attention to until he said the keywords that got my attention) and he referred to "getting it back on the glideslope." That's the first time I've noticed that aviation metaphor used by a non pilot. I wonder if anyone is monitoring the rate at which expressions like "keep a tight rein on" are fading away to be replaced by metaphors from newer technology.


Andy R said...

I enjoyed that.

Thank you.

The Flying Pinto said...

Being a yankee, living in TX I'm really enjoying your observations of TX. It was true culture shock for us when we moved here 8 years ago....I am taking a "bloom where you are planted approach," and have been lucky to find like minded people among us: ) The gun thing is true, they have ladies night at the shooting range and one of my girlfriends keeps one in her night stand. When she saw the look of shock on my face she simply said, "if a stranger is in my house at 2am, they are not here to borrow sugar!" You can actually shoot someone, legally, if they are on your property after dusk and you feel husband, as a cop in MA would have had a harder time explaining his actions in the same situation.

Frank Van Haste said...


Re: Barbeque...go to Houston. Then rent a car and drive on down to The Swinging Door. It doesn't get any better than that.



Frank Ch. Eigler said...

Getting the economy "back on the glide slope" eh? So it crashes into the ground at a nice steady slope. Way to go, smart-alecky metaphor user.

Scott Johnson said...

Getting the economy "back on the glide slope" is one of those opposite-metaphors that people use without knowing how clueless they sound.

Ever heard the phrase, "meteoric rise?" Ever seen a meteor actually rise? I always have to shake my head at that one.

Unknown said...

crude but effective,is cable-drive, invariably they suffer a lubrication breakdown betwen rotating inner and static outer...the inner wears away until metal-fatigue finishes the job.
Otherwise, as vintage-vehicle owners will attest, they last forever.
The electronic alternative suffers failed semiconductors, cracked printed circuits, "dry" solder joints and broken/disconnected/short-circuited wires (on the plus-side, they use a lot less power to drive and the wiring is not affected by sharp bends or kinks.

You underestimate the Texans! They've sussed you "furriners" have tunnel-vision and don't realise that "coke" has other possibilities than "Coke". I suspect it saves the explaining, as well.

As an occupant of the emasculated "septic Isle" I have to admire the gun-culture...It's advocates say it promotes respect and good manners.

thanks for the eclectic ,interesting mix of subjectt-matter,you paint some wonderful pictures.

Lord Hutton said...

Great title!

Anonymous said...

Go down to Austin and try The Salt Lick for brisket, etc. Fantastic!

-Big Country

Bryn, North Wales, UK said...

Texas would be one of my preferred choices were I lucky enough to be able to emigrate, purely on the the basis of their self-defence rules!

A question re. aviation & firearms : As Pilot In Command, do you have the authority to require that firearms be unloaded before take-off, or even be left on the ground if you or your charter customer prefer not to have them on board?

gmc said...

Re: "coke," A waiter once asked me, when I ordered the liter of house wine from the menu, if I would like the big liter or the small liter.

Say what?

Anonymous said...

Growing up as I did in suburban Chicago in the 70s and 80s, a carbonated caffeinated (or overly-sugared) beverage was "pop".

Apparently in other regions of the US it can also be "sodee".


Tina Marie said...

I still say the best BBQ in Texas is at Luling City Market (in Luling, TX, of course).

The rules here for carrying a handgun basically come down to taking a 10-hour class, mostly about where you can carry (no schools/churches/bars) and being able to shoot well enough to hit the broadside of a barn. I actually took the class a few weeks ago and am just waiting for my license in the mail.

Aviatrix said...

If you're going into one of those places and happen to have your gun with you, do you leave it in the glove compartment, or is it enough to unload and leave the ammo behind?

dpierce said...

Locals eat here. And if people got sick here, the whole town would know ...

The locals have had a few years to acclimate their GI tracts to Billy's cooking, too.

I've had to adapt to saying "pop" in the north and "Coke" in the south. For the longest time in the south, if you ordered "Coke", you'd get whatever cola flavored beverage they carried. About 15 years ago, there was some kind of revolt, either from the soda companies or the consumer, not sure which. This led to the oft repeated, "We don't have Coke, SIR, we have Pepsi," you hear so often now when reflexively ordering a Coke. (Back then, Coke was super dominant. Today, you can't find any two people who drink the same beverage -- I guess that drives a need for distinction.)

The decision on whether or not it's kosher to bring guns into ATL was recently resolved.

A Squared said...

It was a 'welcome to Texas' moment for us.

This is not peculiar to Texas. There are only 2 states and the District of Columbia in which concealed carry by other than Law Enforcement Officers is prohibited by law. There are a few other states in which it is technically permitted but as practice permits are not issued to non-LEOs. 39 states have laws which require officials to issue CCW permits to any applicant who is eligible. In Alaska and Vermont, a permit is not required to carry concealed.

I guess that I am a little puzzled by the shock and horror that the sight of a firearm elicits. Was there an indication, any indication at all, no matter how slight, that the person might have been anything other than a law abiding citizen minding his own, legal business? If there was, it wasn't mentioned in the narrative.

A Squared said...

A question re. aviation & firearms : As Pilot In Command, do you have the authority to require that firearms be unloaded before take-off, or even be left on the ground if you or your charter customer prefer not to have them on board?

As pilot in command, you have the authority to require whatever you wish. However, generally speaking, pilots are employed by someone else, and may be subject to a review of their actions by their employer, who may or may not share their views.

As a practical matter, the more times you load and unload a weapon, the more opportunities you have to inadvertently fire it. Requiring someone to unload a properly holstered weapon would increase the chance of an accident, rather than decrease it.

Anonymous said...

@Bryn, North Wales, UK said...
there was a post from Fly Guy about Gun in airplanes in his Blog "Captains Log"
see here ->


Aviatrix said...

I am a little puzzled by the shock and horror that the sight of a firearm elicits.

Where does the narrative mention shock or horror? I have never seen an unholstered handgun in a parking lot. In fact I think the only time I have seen a handgun in a public place is in the holster of a police officer. I have seen a llama in a parking lot, but you can bet if my coworker had spied one of those in Texas I would have mentioned it in the blog entry. The only reason you can't replace "gun" with "llama" and "Texas" with "Peru" in that anecdote is that llamas don't fit in people's back pockets.

viennatech said...

"shock and horror". It hit me the first time as I was standing in line for a Tim Horton's coffee that in Quebec they allow regular security guards to pack heat!! In most of Canada you have to be a true police officer but I guess they relaxed the rules here somewhat. It's also the same province where I saw a "no handguns" sign on the entrance to a hospital. Did they really need this here?

N6349C said...

Boy, there are a million things in this post. First, the best BBQ in Texas is Clark's Outpost, in Tioga, TX, about 30 miles north of DFW airport (they are even on the Internet - When in town to lose to the Cowboys, the Washington Redskins used to go there for dinner.

AS an English-bred immigrant, and 30 year TX resident, I am still appalled at the gun laws here. Recently, a home owner in Dallas shoot and killed his 16 year old daughter when she sneaked into her darkened house late at night after a date. Of course, he was in his own home so it was alright........ Children die all the time from either finding a loaded gun and shooting themselves or their friends, or from being shot by their father while cleaning his gun. Gun ownership makes you many times more likely to die from gunfire, than not owning a gun. Check out the statistics, if you don't believe me. If fact, a gun owner is more likely to shoot herself to death with their own gun, than she is to defend her life with it. Or himself.

And lastly, anyone know how a tachometer can consistently read 300 RPM too high? Mine does,

N6349C said...

Oh, and one other thing I forgot - TX law permits a business owner to require all who work or enter that business to not carry a weapon, except for police officers. That probably covers your airplane too!

Sarah said...

Eye catching post title, yes. Fortunately misleading, for Aviatrix' continued health & freedom.

Guns... yes, things are different in the US. My state permits "concealed carry" by civilians after a short firearm safety course, which does little to reassure me. I'd rather only the (better trained )professionals have them. The law here says it's OK to carry your gun anywhere except where expressly forbidden by signage. This leads to alarming ( to visitors ) signs saying "Guns not permitted in this business". You see them on most bar, restaurant and bank (!) doors.

Since I don't "carry", I'm impressed someone could fit a handgun in his back pocket. Was it an especially small gun, or large... erm.. pocket? On the TV, handguns are tucked in the back waistband only by bad guys. The good guys have proper holsters. :)

Lord Hutton said...

peru? I'm going to Peru shortly. They can leave their guns at home.

A Squared said...


If you say that the group's reaction to the handgun was precisely identical to how you would have reacted upon discovering an unusual furry animal, I have no choice but to accept that, not having been there. I will confess to remaining privately skeptical.

Aviatrix said...

Sarah: I didn't see the gun or pocket in question and didn't quiz my co-worker on specifications. We had more important things to discuss, like which BBQ to attend.

Lord Hutton: Guns, sure, but what about their llamas?

Rob said...

I went into a store in San Antonio a few years ago and asked the lady behind the counter where the "pop cooler was", she looked at me like I was speaking in some kind of alien language, then I corrected with " I mean soda cooler" and she pointed me in the right direction and commented in a great Texas accent " y'all aint from around here are ya?".

It only took me two days to start using Y'all and two weeks to stop when I got back home after only a week in Texas. Great people and a great state.

Aviatrix said...

ASquared: I intended the comparison to apply to the blog entry. I didn't blog it any differently than I would have blogged a llama sighting.

But to reconsider and answer that specific question I think the same answer applies. If one member of the group had see a llama appear unexpectedly in the parking lot, I'm pretty sure she would have said, "Hey, that guy has a llama," and if we looked around and didn't see anything we would have asked something like "Where, what was he doing with it?" and if she had responded "Just put in the back of his truck cab, like a guy at home would do with a case of beer," then we'd probably have thought, "Heh, I guess that's what people do in Peru," and gone back to discussing which Ceviche place to go to.

It was probably pretty much the reaction a Texan would have to seeing a wedding with two brides in Canada. A moment of "huh, what did I just see?" followed by "oh yeah, they do that here." Or would the Texan be shocked and horrified that people in other places do things differently?

Aviatrix said...

On the other hand, if someone had had unleashed a vicious attack llama, or started waving a gun around menacingly we would probably have run away and called the police.

But that didn't happen.

nec Timide said...

If you are a wolf, all llamas are vicious attack llamas. Around here they use them to guard sheep.

Aviatrix said...

I thought Nec Timide had the wrong animal in mind, but apparently he's not kidding: llamas, those soft, fuzzy, South American camels, are kept with flocks of sheep to decrease wolf kills.

Never joke about anything on the Internet. It will turn out to be true.

zb said...

Concerning aviation (and technology) metaphors in non-technical context, I can strongly recommend the lyrics of the Seattle-based band Transmissionary Six. They currently have a ton of legal and free mp3 files of their songs on their website. I have no idea if their quiet, acoustic music is what you like, but you'll find a lot of very carefully chosen metaphors in the lyrics. Pretty much anyone else who uses metaphors borrowed from technology does so in a quite annoying manner, leading to stupid stuff like brains not having 'saved' something and whatnot. Terry Moeller and Paul Austin of t6, on the other hand, are very careful doing this and put words like "we might make it off the runway" and "closed circuit TV" into a very nostalgic context. When they talk of "Rodeo Satellites", it creates magic.

Callsign Echo said...

Bryn, North Wales, UK said..

Texas would be one of my preferred choices were I lucky enough to be able to emigrate, purely on the the basis of their self-defence rules!

A question re. aviation & firearms : As Pilot In Command, do you have the authority to require that firearms be unloaded before take-off, or even be left on the ground if you or your charter customer prefer not to have them on board?

You may be more right than you think. Having written a couple research papers on the topic, I can tell you with some authority that the States with the most restrictive gun laws have a higher rate of violent crime with guns than say, Arizona or Texas (of course this is limited to the US; other parts of the globe do not follow that statistical trend).

And as pilot in command, you can require that the passengers unload their guns, stick their left finger in their right ear and stand on one foot while singing "Anchors Aweigh"...if you think it is essential to the safety of flight. You might have to answer a couple questions about that when you land, though.

Bryn, North Wales, UK said...

@ Callsign Echo
I agree with you re. crime stats in pro-2A states v. those in gun theft states. Any reports I have ever seen claiming that the reverse is true can usually be traced to left-wing gun theft groups, who are very selective about the stats they choose to use. On the rare occasion I get the chance to discuss the matter with a gun grabber, they are always most unhappy to be reminded that most massacres occur in places where local or state laws have produced a high concentration of disarmed victims.

Re. the issue of weapons on aircraft, my personal rule would be:- "No live shells in the chamber or under the hammer while in the aircraft, unless the need arises."

I've no doubt that others will have many variations on this theme!