Triplane Builder

Poems by Triplane Builder - William (Bill) Woodall

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Do As I Say

One of the axioms of flying that is pounded far and wide:
Is "if the engine quits on takeoff ---dump the nose and hold a glide";
Try to dodge a solid object--- if that object's in your way;
Amounts of bank, be small ones-- if you'd live another day.

Drummed into us students, from before we got to fly;
Then they practiced with chopped throttles and we got to try and try;
It became so common that you wonder if you've sinned!
Seems you rarely make the pattern and get to turn crosswind!

Eventually they'll trust you, and the frequency will drop,
But the seed is always in your mind, "that engine-it could stop"!
You learn to keep good tabs-- on the fields 'oer which you fly,
Just in case he pulls the throttle--tests your judgement and your eye.

You think it's in your nature now; to anticipate the worst;
If real life were to test you now, you'd end up being first!
But then I saw an accident that sowed some seeds of doubt;
Saw "graduates" who'd flunk the course-- the "rules" they'd really flout.

I watched this 'reserve' Stearman (with two officers as crew),
Its take-off run 'peculiar'-then its engine sound came through.
There was weakness in it's droning-- with a clatter over all,
And the airplane flew so slowly---it was just above a stall.

It was headed for our barracks as it reached one hundred feet;
Shakily turned to starboard-- as its pilot did his "cheat".
It was aimed now for a taxiway; (his angel he should thank),
But instead of starting gliding-- tried yet another bank.

This time it was the classic-- that I knew we're looking at;
The 'over the top' came quickly and he spun toward the mat.
With part of a turn completed-- hit the concrete with a smash;
On fire-- the engine rolled away-- from the region of the crash.

The airplane bounded mightily and landed on its gear,
Gas from ruptured fuel lines chased the engine from the rear.
An Aviation Machinist Mate, sprinting to the site,
Turned the necessary valve to "off", before the fuel could light.

From this I learned two lessons, (and they don't go hand in hand);
One was shoulder harness works-both officers could stand!
But these two were "alumni" of the course I'm tryin' to hack
Could I really trust that a crisis--- won't see ME try turning back?

Bill Woodall

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