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Winging It! With Dr. Paul

Navy Hospitality

Our emergency landing at Lemoore Naval Air Station made Suk something of a celebrity. Even in this enlightened age, it's rare for an aviatrix to fly into a Naval base. All eyes were on her, all questions directed her way. I was coolly ignored. Is it that obvious, I wondered, that I'm an Air Force veteran?

At the Base Commander's office, I was finally given the opportunity to respond to a few questions. Yes, ours had been the plane squawking 7700 off of Harris Ranch. No, I was not a passenger, just the flight instructor. Yes, they could list me as Pilot in Command. No, I always fly from the right seat. Yes, she does have a foreign accent. No, we are not spies. Yes, it was a real emergency - here's the throttle handle, see for yourself!

The plane was impounded, and towed to a hangar. I wouldn't be surprised if they searched it for controlled substances. After signing the customary forms, we were released to our own recognizance. Suk wondered how we'd get back home. I called Steve - he owed me one.

A year before, when Steve's Bonanza had blown a prop governor at Elko, I had flown to his rescue. Now I didn't even have to remind him; he said "Meet me at Hanford Muni in an hour and a half." We hitchhiked to the nearby G. A. field, arriving in time to watch Steve's fork-tailed doctor killer float down final.

Noting that his power controls were identical to mine, I asked Steve offhandedly, "When's the last time you checked your throttle cable?"

"Last annual inspection," he grinned, "about three years ago."

A week later, Steve had deposited me back at Hanford, new cable in hand. The taxi ride to base was swift and silent. Suk had declined to come along. I suspected she was out searching for a new flight instructor.

I found my plane uncowled inside a hangar full of fighters, the failed assembly carefully removed. The Navy operates a fleet of King Air 200's for executive transport, and contracts with Beechcraft for civilian A&P's to supervise their maintenance. The mechanic on duty had started the job; now we finished it together. By late afternoon the plane was airworthy, a clearance was in hand from the Navy tower, and I was on my way.

The Beech factory rep refused payment of any kind, reminding me that his Government contract forbade his servicing civilian craft. Before I left he swore me to silence, admonishing me, as he signed off the logbooks, against breathing a word about his actions to anyone.

"Your secret is safe with me," I promised. "I'll never tell a soul."

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