Flying|December 2021
Fifty-plus years of f lying forgetfulness

If there was a legitimate explanation for flying my family of five at night from Hartford (KBDL), Connecticut, to Teterboro (KTEB), New Jersey, in a Cessna 210, I can’t for the life of me tell you what it was. Though vaguely aware that the twinkling lights of Connecticut cities and towns had somehow disappeared, this pilot carried on, unconcerned. What I do remember clearly is watching the airspeed indicator drop to zero, seemingly in slow motion. A handy flashlight silhouetted a nice ice ball on the underwing pitot tube. We were in cloud and in icing. Oh, yes, I forgot—and I turned on the pitot heat. This was a case of more than forgetfulness; this was stupid. This was not my first error of omission, and I would forget the pitot heat more than once through the years. Over a long and favored life of aviation, I have forgotten all manner of important matters, but none have done me in yet.

Aircraft ownership gives one an appreciation for carefulness. A Beechcraft Musketeer bought at auction while I was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, was my first airplane. The engine started with a key, just like a car, but there was another switch, labeled “Master,” that actually put power on the airplane and needed to be turned off when the day was done. The first time I forgot to turn off the master switch and found a dead airplane, a mechanic said to me, “You’ll do that three times and never again afterward.” He was right.

There seems to be a thread of forgetfulness that runs through my flying career, and advancing age hasn’t seemed to make it better or worse.

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