Monday, July 11, 2011

A Favor for My Friend

One of the many ways the Lord has directed us to missions was the availability of multiple mentors at church. The United States has approximately 300 million people. Roughly 600,000 of whom are pilots. The pilot to non pilot ratio is roughly 1 pilot for every 500 people. When I was growing up, Highland view had roughly 300 members, 10 of whom were pilots and most had mentored me in some way or another. For you math majors, thats a ratio of  1 pilot for every 30 people. What are the odds?
One of my favorite mentors was a gentleman named Gordon Brady. I must have been 11 or 12 when I began talking with him about aviation, and to the best of my recollection, he had been involved with airplanes nearly all his life. He had built several of his own, worked as an avionics technician for some time with military airplanes, and was a member of the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) and AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). He was unable to get a medical certificate after around age 85. For his 90th birthday, he went skydiving. He was the oldest person this company had taken skydiving until his 93 year old sister looked up and said, "Hey, that looks like fun, I think I'll try it". For his 93rd birthday, he went hang gliding. He was the oldest person that company had taken hang gliding until his 96 year old sister said, "Hey that looks like fun, I think I'll try it".
He was a great Christian mentor and friend. For his 95th birthday, his children bought him an ultra light. He didnt get to fly it very often due to his health, but it was my great privelidge to take him flying several years ago.

This was his last flight in an airplane while he was alive. He moved to Texas to be with his children not long before he passed. He donated his body to the medical industry and was then cremated. One of his last requests was for his ashes to be sprinked over an airport (the name of the airport is being withheld to protect the this case maybe the not so innocent........ me!) His daughter contacted my Dad, who contacted me. We got in the airplane and flew to met Gordon's daughter Pat at the above "non-mentioned" airport.

 Gordons daughter Pat, Me, and Dad

 There are a plethora of stories out there about pilots who improperly attempted to scatter ashes out of an airplane and ended up covered in the very person they were trying to honor. What tends to happen is the pilot will open one window, which due to Bernouli's principle and other aerodynamic factors, creates an area of lower air pressure inside the cabin. Since air flows from high pressure to low pressure, anything with very little mass attempting to be jettisoned outside the airplane comes right back in and all over everything. I was determined not to be on this list. My dad and I did some thinking and after talking to other pilots who had done this, we came up with a rig (specifics withheld, again to avoid self incrimination...... I also feel like I need to add a disclaimer. Do not try this at home, I am an aviation professional with years of training. For all the FAA employess reading the page, 14 CFR 91.15 which states "No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property" was followed) and with a little in flight configuration experimentation, i.e. airspeed and flap placement, we finally found a configuration that created a slight amount of suction through our apparatus and overboard! It worked perfectly! 

As we flew over the runway at approximately 65 knots, we passed Gordon's family and Dad placed the ashes into the funnel. It was an honor not only to be the last person to take Gordon flying while he was alive, but it was indeed a priviledge to be the last person to take him flying and help fulfill his last request.

Thanks for all your help Gordon.  See you on the other side.

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