(Photo left: B-17 taking off,
tail wheel locked.)
With WW II engulfing the U.S., we needed tens of thousands of airplane pilots—fast. The result was a high speed training program, aviation cadets warned that two of every three would be “washed out,” not because they couldn’t learn to fly, but because they couldn’t learn fast enough. Tens of thousands of pilots won their wings and got the job done, which doesn’t mean they were well-trained. Many planes crashed because of “pilot error,” the awful number buried in statistics.
I made such an error, but luckily it didn’t kill me. Before take-off, one check-list item was, “Tail wheel locked.” On landing it stayed locked until the plane slowed to taxiing speed when it was unlocked so you could steer off the runway and to a parking space. One day in the last run-up before take-off, we (me and my co-pilot) forgot to lock the tail wheel. The co-pilot hit the turbo boost, I advanced the throttles, released the brakes, we moved forward, high revs, engines roaring, and immediately the plane drifted right. I tried to correct but the rudder is useless below 40 MPH, and by then we could be off the runway. It hit me: the tail wheel was unlocked!
Hands on the stick, full left rudder, I screamed “LOCK THE TAIL WHEEL!” but in the din my co-pilot gave me a “HUH?” look so I let go of the stick leaned over, head well below the windshield (or to use an army expression, head well up my ass), reached a hand to the floor, found the lever, slammed it home, popped up, grabbed the stick and got us airborne.
Now that same thing is happening to the whole U.S. as the economy is gathering speed and becoming airborne after a Republican-caused economic crash, only to have these same head-up-their-ass Republicans insist on letting the tail wheel flip and flop in the the so-called Sequester.
It’s worse than pilot error, which, Heaven knows, was never deliberate, just the result of young pilots not fully trained before going off to fight a war. What’s happening now, is deliberate, not only by the likes of theory-dazed fanatics like Rand Paul, but many who realize full well it will cause havoc but are nevertheless willing to let the country crash and burn (again!) to keep their super rich string pullers happy.