Food catering at Flight Level 220
©Hal Stoen, Stoenworks
It was a dark and stormy night. Well, OK, it was dark. And cold. January in the Upper Midwest. I was driving the company aircraft, N1557 Golf, a Cessna 421B. Behind me, in the main cabin, were my passengers, two salesmen and an engineer. We were returning home to Minneapolis after spending several days making sales calls in the southern part of the U.S..
It was about 8:00 at night, and one of the guys in the back asked where we were. Always a potentially dangerous question for a pilot to handle. "About one hundred miles south of Mason City, Iowa." "Hey, I used to live in this area....I'm hungry, think I'll call the wife and see if there are any good restaraunts around."
He used the flightphone in the cabin, and discovered that there was one right below us.
22,000 feet below us.
Hey, he was a company wheel, I was just the pilot...call Center...cleared to so-and-so airport...cancel IFR...cold and windy on the ground...tell the line guys at the airport to please top off the main fuel tanks...off to the restaraunt.
We have a fine dinner. They drink, I watch..(hey, drinking is not supposed to be a spectator sport!) Back to the airport. It's cold outside, hovering right around zero degrees. It's windy, it's late..close to Midnight late. I go into the Line Office and pay the fuel bill. I tell my passengers to wait inside the warm office while I go out to do the preflight inspection. I drain the sumps, wishing that the 421B didn't have to have twelve of them. I do a walk around visual inspection. I'm cold, a perfect time to rush things just a little. "No." The voice inside says. "Don't take chances. Slow down and do this correctly."
Like most pilots, I have found that "the voice" is usually correct.
I open the access door to the left engine and check the oil level on the dipstick. OK. Over to the right engine. What's this? No dipstick. I remember my fuel receipt and pull it out of my pocket. "Added one quart of oil, right engine." It reads. I look around, and there it is, laying in the snow. I wipe it off and secure it to the engine. I board my passengers and we're off for the Twin Cities.
We arrive, safe and sound, an hour later, and I found myself wondering- "What if?"
© Hal Stoen, 2000
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