Harvey Takes a Flight Check
Harvey needed to have a flight check. He hadn't had one since WW II.
And now one of the FAA inspectors was getting on him to get his bi-annual
flight check, as the new regulations required.
"Look," Harvey said to me over the telephone. "This FAA SOB is getting
all over me about not having one of these here new pain-in-the-ass flight
"Yeah, well, you ought to get one," I said.
"Well, can you give me one", he wanted to know?
"Yeah," I said, "I can do that. When do you want to get together?"
"Get together hell," said Harvey! "I'm gonna mail you my log-book this
afternoon. When you get the damn thing, just write down
something-or-other in it that will make the FAA happy. Then mail it back."
"Harvey, you know I can't do that," I said. "You and me got to get together
somewhere, talk a little bit about all these new regulations, and go fly around
a little bit. Then I'll sign you off. It won't be any big deal."
"Fly around a little bit," Harvey howled! "You want me to go 'fly around
a little bit'? With you? Are you nuts? I'm sick and tired of 'flying around a
little bit'. That's all I've been doing since I was eighteen years old, and I'm
sick of it. And even if I did want to go 'fly around a little bit', I sure as hell
wouldn't want to go flying around with you."
"Well," I said, getting mad, "If you want to get a flight check from me,
you're gonna have to go 'fly around a little bit' with me."
"Well," said Harvey, "I ain't gonna go 'flying around a little bit' with you
or any other of you smart-aleck flight instructors. I was flying airplanes
before you was potty trained, and I don't need you to explain to me what
it's all about. I'm gonna mail you my log-book this afternoon and you can
just write down some of those fancy words that you smart-alecks use to
keep the feds quiet." Then he hung up the telephone.
A couple of days later Harvey's logbook showed up in the mail.
Harvey's logbook was an odd document. It was a standard pilot's
logbook that had entries in it going back about twenty-five years. But very
few entries were records of particular flights. Mostly, it was a record of
aircraft bought and sold. Also, it recorded engine changes or other
modifications to particular airplanes. Most of the aircraft mentioned were
Some entries were particularly mysterious. 'Seven-Seven-Tango', for
instance, was an old Navy N3N that came to an unknown fate. She had
been fitted with a 220 HP Continental engine, and "flew good" for the first
two hundred hours. Then some unexplained event occurred, and
"Seven-Seven-Tango got tore up and I busted my arm."
Another airplane, identified only as the "black and yellow T-6", was
"sold to a man in Mexico." A J-5 Cub was "traded for a pick-up truck".
For the first ten or twelve years of the record, yearly entries simply
stated: "I flew about 800 hours this year." Each succeeding year would
hold a similar entry. The only entry dated in 1953 stated, "I must have
flown over 1200 hours this year" As the years went by, even those scant
entries ceased to appear. When I received the logbook, the most recent
entry was almost five years old. That year Harvey had flown "only about
Knowing Harvey as I did, and knowing the business as I had come to
know it, I realized that that slim little log-book was the cryptic record of a
lifetime of flight, and the untold experiences of an old time Texas
Harvey, like Bob, was one of several old pilots in South Texas who
automatically gave me a phone call any time they got crossways with the
FAA. It never seemed to occur to any of these old-timers that it wasn't my
responsibility to see to it that they stayed legal with the feds. But just
about everybody in the crop-dusting business in that part of the country
seemed to think I was some sort of liaison officer between ag. pilots and
the civilized world. So when Harvey needed a flight check it was
automatically assumed that I would see to it that he got one.
Within a week I was on my way to Hondo. I had borrowed a Piper
Cherokee from a friend and was determined to give Harvey a legal flight
Harvey was happy to see me. Right away he wanted to see his signed
"Dammit, Harvey," I said. "I told you I wasn't going to sign that log
book until we made a flight."
"For cripes sake," said Harvey. "You mean you're still yammering on
about flying around in some airplane."
"Yeah, I'm still yammering on about flying around in some airplane," I
said. "It's called a 'flight check'."
I got out an aviation sectional chart and started asking Harvey
questions about various symbols, radio frequencies, and control zones. He
knew a little bit, but not much. Then I started asking him about some of
the flying rules and regulations that had been introduced over the last
decade. He had never heard of any of them, and didn't particularly want to
hear about them then.
"Look," argued Harvey. "I don't need to know any of that stuff. I hadn't
used a radio in 20 years. I haven't flown into a big-city airport in longer
than that. I haven't flown much over a hundred feet off the ground since
Trueman was president. And I don't ever intend to do any of those things
again in this lifetime. All I want to do is fly a few more loads on cotton in
the summer, and onions in the winter. Hell, a few more years and I'll be
too feeble to fly anyway. Why don't those fed SOBs just leave me alone
and let me wind up my flying the way I want to. I'm tired of it all anyway.
I'd quit today if I could afford it."
It was hard for me to disagree with Harvey, so I didn't. "Tell you what,"
I said. "Let's just go fly around a little bit."
"Oh, so now we're back to 'flying around a little bit'. I guess you expect
me to fly around in that tin-can airplane you showed up here in." Harvey
was referring to the shiny new all-metal Cherokee that I had borrowed.
"Ah, come on Harvey," I said. "You know I can't sign-off your flight
check if we don't actually get in an airplane. All I'm gonna want you to do
is make a few turns. Just get off the ground and take a turn or two around
the air patch. It won't take ten minutes."
"No, I'm not gonna fly that airplane. I don't know how to fly an airplane
like that. I'll wreck that damn thing just trying to get it off the ground,"
"Ah, Harvey," I wheeled, "you'll like this little airplane. She's nice and
quiet. Flies easy as pie."
I finally coaxed Harvey into the left seat of that Cherokee. Right away,
he didn't like it. All his life Harvey had flown airplanes that were controlled
by a stick. He had no use for airplanes with 'steering wheels.' He also
complained bitterly that this airplane had the 'tail wheel' on the wrong
I fired up the engine and we taxied out to the runway. Harvey was as
nervous as a cat. He refused to even touch the controls on take-off. We
leveled-off at about fifteen hundred feet and I tried to persuade him to at
least put his hands on the control wheel. He wouldn't hear of it. He just
sat there all sulled-up with his arms folded. It occurred to me that this was
probably the first time in decades that Harvey had been airborne with
another man on board.
"Come on, Harvey," I coaxed. "Just make a couple of turns here and
there. Then we'll go back and land."
"I'm ready to go back and land right now," he said.
"Damnit, you know you can't take a flight check without even touching
the controls," I argued. "Now, just put your hands on the control wheel
and make a couple of gentle turns."
Harvey slowly placed his hands on the control wheel. The moment I let
go of the wheel on my side, he let go of the wheel on his side. "Damnit,
Harvey," I said, "if you don't make a couple of turns here and there, I'm
not gonna sign-off your log book."
"Well, I don't know how to fly one of these kinds of airplanes," Harvey
complained. "I don't like these funny little things anyway. I don't think
"Well, just quit complaining and put your hands back on the controls," I
said. "I don't like flying around with you any better than you like flying
around with me. Just put your hands back on the yoke and make a couple
of gentle turns. Just quit complaining and do it, so that we can get this
stupid flight check over with and get back on the ground."
Harvey put his hands back on the wheel. After flying straight and level
for a couple of minutes I said, "Okay, now make a turn one way or the
Slowly Harvey went into a gentle turn to the left. After about 30
degrees of heading change he released the wheel and folded his arms
again. "Let's go back now," he said.
"Okay, okay," I said. "We'll head on back now. You wanna try to shoot
"Lord, no," said Harvey! You'd have thought I had asked him to land the
Back in Harvey's office I could tell that he was still nervous. He found a
couple of coffee cups and poured about a half-inch of whiskey into each. I
got out his logbook and signed him off for his bi-annual flight check.
"Thanks," said Harvey.
The last thing he said to me before I headed home was, "Damnit, you
need to do a better job of keeping up with all this pain-in-the-ass flight
check business. And don't forget you're gonna have to sign me off again in