Fragments of what I was seeing and hearing and thinking in those early days when I flew as a copilot in a Convair 240.
We are back again at my archeological dig, wherein old boxes of aviation notes had been ferreted out of deep storage and dusted off. These are fragmented creations from decades ago when I was flying the original airliners I had laid my hands on—notes made for a future use which I never got around to.
These piles of observations from my earliest years of driving airliners have been put into a semblance of order to provide a sense of what I was seeing and hearing and thinking in those days. Here is part two.
The Convair 240 splashed through the puddles as it swung from the gate. The columns of churning wind behind the propellers had swept a spray against the empty terminal. The agent, who knew better, had already hustled inside to watch from behind thick glass as the lights of the airplane moved across his rain-smeared view and disappeared around the corner.
“Three-eight-six, ready for your clearance?” The controller’s voice was clear and it filled the pilot’s headphones with a friendly closeness, as if the controller were sitting at the next barstool. Damp and dreary weather on a quiet night would somehow become the glue that bound together all those who used the frequency.
“To Boston,” he began in rounded tones, then continued on with his measured litany as he recited the electronic route that had been reserved for them.
The copilot wrote what was said in cryptic shorthand on a clipboard in his lap. The clipboard was lit by a narrow arc of light from above his head. The copilot wrote quickly but carefully, the mechanical pencil etching out the routing in neat numbers and letters on the blank side of their flight plan.
He paused for a moment after he finished writing, then reached for his microphone and read back what he had put down.
The Convair was slowly traveling down the stretch of blacktop that led to the runway. The airliner responded to the motions of the captain’s hand on the nose steering control, and the noises from the hydraulic valves floated up from beneath the floorboards to add a steady and nearly eerie undercurrent to the quiet in the cockpit.
The flight attendant had silently come up to the cockpit and without a word, handed the load slip to the copilot. He examined the paper she had given him: 19 passengers, 500 gallons of fuel. With the cargo, the gross weight was 41,200 pounds.
“Nineteen in the cabin,” the copilot announced. The captain said nothing.
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