Pettigrew was a forty-year-old, skinny runt of a man who would need tying
down in a wind. He sat hunched over his desk looking through sad eyes like
an obedient dog trained by force. He seemed out of place in his role as
manager of Bannister Airways in Paradise. He looked at my pilot's log book
and asked a few questions about my background. His tone indicated that the
instructor/pilot job was mine if I wanted it.
I did. The further north I had
driven from my old flying school, the more I realized that I needed this
change. If there had been any doubt in my mind, it had vanished at the
sight of the floatplanes bobbing beside the dock at Bannister Airways. It
was a clear, cool day in April and the pine-scented air was crisp and
fresh with the promise of spring. The airplanes tugged at their lines with
each wave, beckoning me to join them in the blue sky. They had settled it,
I was going to be a bush pilot.
Pettigrew squirmed in his
chair, trying to think of what to ask me next. It seemed to me that he
should just name the salary and tell me when I could start, but I remained
silent, confident that the job would be mine very soon. Then came the
bomb. At that moment Clifford Bannister barged through the door like a
wrecking ball and stopped in the middle of the room. He glared at me with
large eyes set in a puffy, red face. Clifford Bannister was a round, loud
man in his mid-fifties. His entry emphasized his position as owner and
president of Bannister Airways. He turned to Pettigrew and bellowed,
"My God Gary, he's a walking Supercub load!"
I was admittedly heavy for my
size. Eating had been a happy and frequent part of my life, but I had
never considered myself a walking load for a two-place airplane. I
suppressed a childish urge to toss a comeback to Bannister, like;
"People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones". I stared
nervously at the hair growing out of his ears and said nothing. Since my
meeting with the manager had been friendly to this point, I waited for
Pettigrew's reaction to the owner's remark. He didn't say anything.
Ignoring any formalities,
Bannister plopped himself into a chair and started asking me questions.
"How much time do you have flying a DeHavilland Beaver?"
The Beaver was a
Canadian-built, seven-passenger wonder of a bushplane, designed to haul
huge loads out of postage-stamp lakes. I had never touched one, but it was
a real pilot's airplane that I hoped to fly. Bannister owned two of them.
"None sir, I have never
been in one."
"Figures," he said
rolling his eyes, "I suppose you have never been in a Found
"I have never heard of a
Found, sir," I replied truthfully.
I discovered later that a Found
was a smaller airplane that wanted to grow up to be a Beaver, but didn't
make it. There would be days ahead when I would wish that I had never seen
"Humph," he grunted,
"do you have any Cessna One-Eighty time?"
"None, but I have 200
hours in Cessna One-Seventy-Twos," I replied.
I wasn't doing very well. These
were both four-place airplanes, but comparing the One-Seventy-Two to a
demanding bushplane like the One-Eighty was like comparing a
Harley-Davidson to a Honda scooter with training wheels. It didn't pacify
Gary Pettigrew slouched lower
over his desk as Bannister's face grew redder.
"Have you ever flown a
Supercub before?" His tone with this question demanded a yes.
"No sir, but I have
instructed on a Citabria."
I thought I might score some
badly needed points here since the two types of airplanes were similar,
but, by his look, I could see that he had never heard of a Citabria.
His scowl worsened and my hopes
of experiencing the freedom of float flying, of skimming over the area's
unspoiled lakes and trees, started to sink.
"Well, how much float
experience do you have?"
That was it. Pettigrew knew I
had none so I couldn't lie. He had however, invited me for the interview.
"I don't have any float
"Well goddammit Pettigrew,
what is this?" his voice rose with his bulk as he heaved himself out
of the chair. Leaning towards me, he barked, "Tell me son, have you
ever been in a boat?"
"Yes sir," I
sputtered, "I taught sailing at a boys' camp."
"Well bully for you,"
he roared as he left the room.
Bannister's mood may have been
spiked by the still fresh memory of the previous flying instructor.
Pettigrew had told me that the pilot had taken off on a drunken joy ride
one night in the company's best DeHavilland Beaver. After several low
passes over Bannister's house, he had torn up the floats landing on
submerged rocks. He escaped Bannister's wrath by departing town straight
from the wreck.
The interview was over in less
than a minute. I felt that any chance of landing this job went out the
door with the pompous owner. I consoled myself with the fact there were
other openings with the current instructor shortage, but I had been
looking forward to flying floatplanes here.
Pettigrew's nasal voice broke
the silence. After nervously checking the hall to ensure that his boss was
gone, he apologized. "He comes on strong, doesn't he? Don't let his
gruff manner bother you."
That's all right," I lied.
I was bitter. There was no reason to invite me to Paradise to belittle me.
"Thanks for the interview anyway." As I got up to leave, I
extended my hand out of courtesy and an urge to help the little man unbend
"Before you go, I will
outline our salary structure and arrange your starting time," he
I was only half listening
because I was still thinking of how I should have handled Bannister's
barrage. I could have mentioned the skipper's pin I had earned at the
junior yacht club or shown him my Red Cross swimmer's badge. I could have
lied and claimed Boeing 747 float time. It took me a minute to realize
what Pettigrew was saying.
"Are you suggesting that
I'm hired?" I asked.
"Yes. I might say that Mr.
Bannister was a bit rough on you, but he likes to sound out our new staff
before they are hired. I hope you were not offended, because I have no
other candidates for the job. I'm sure you will find him a fair man to
work for. Are you still interested?"
I was filled with mixed
emotions. The warm prospect of being able to change jobs flooded back over
me, but I was suffering from the emotional whiplash dealt to me by the
owner. I didn't like being fodder for the grouch, but I recovered quickly
and told Pettigrew that I would accept the position. I figured if
Bannister made a habit out of ripping pieces off his staff, then I could
always get drunk one night and buzz his house in a Beaver before leaving
Order your copy by clicking on
the appropriate flag for your country of
origin or on the book to order directly from Garth.
Note from the Editor. I
would like to thank Garth Wallace for permission to use this second
chapter from his book Fly Yellow
Side Up .
In case you missed it check out the first chapter titled Respect, But No Money!. To find out more
about Garth's other books email email@example.com
Imagine getting to drop water bombs and get paid for it.
Must be big balloons. Another great image by Rich Hulina.
Dave's Bush Pilot tip! If you plan
to keep the yellow side up in this particular Twin Otter make sure you
have your cat. Throw him in the air and if he comes to rest by the
throttles you have the wrong yellow side up. If you do loop it, however,
make sure the boss is at the Salisbury having lunch. Even if the C172
pilot squeals the boss won't believe him anyway.
The attitude indicator will take you back to Aviation Friends.
Editor John S Goulet
Last modified on Feb
(c) Virtual Horizons, 1996.