Now at about mid field on a right downwind leg and climbing through 2500 feet with the windows defrosting at a nice clip I again allow the airplane to roll into a fifteen degree right bank and Dan asks “Where’re you going NOW?”
I said “ Well Dan, I’m thinking I’ll keep climbing ‘til we get about four or five thousand feet under us so we got some room and time to work any MORE problems that might jump up and BITE US IN THE ASS and I’d PREFER to be directly overhead the airport in that case as well, so since we have the whole of the arctic airspace to ourselves tonight we may as well do it over the field and climb in a right hand circle as long as that damn wheel is dragging us that way anyway!!”
“Okay...GEE whiiiiiZ. Are you MAD or something??” he asks. I say (lying) “No. Not really. I’m just tired and hungry and that makes me GRUMPY.”
Meanwhile Dan has been working the frequency selector knobs on the KX170 and as the digits click into position for 123.0 I hear Rod’s voice coming over the speaker in mid-word saying “...uys DOing up there? WHAT’s going on? Dan? Do you read base?”
They spend a couple of moments discussing the past half hours events and potential causes and how the plane is performing now, which I mostly ignore. I am now really enJOYing flying this “hot” twin. By far the hottest machine I’ve ever gotten my nineteen year old hands on and I am banking back and fourth in 20 to 25 degree banks flying figure eights and concentrating on maintaining my A/S at EXACTLY 165 MPH and my altitude at PRECISELY 5000 feet, with the ball centered directly and evenly between the two vertical lines on the slip/skid glass portion of the needle and ball instrument.
So it take just a few seconds for the impact of Rod’s two questions to Dan to hit me.
“Hey Dan. So how much gas you got left and how many SEATS do you have with you???”
Saaaaaay WHAT? Now, Why would Rod ask THAT, I wonder.
Dan replies “Oh, I dunno’. I got GOOD hour and a half’s worth of go-juice and.....lemme’ see......” (this as he turns to look back in the cabin).....”I think we got all seven seats here. Why. What you’ got?”
“Well. Marie Armey called down from Noatak. I guess they got some people want to come down. But, you know, it’s up to you. I mean since you’re already UP there ‘n all. You know, if it runs GOOD all the way to Noatak.......” and Rod leaves the statement hanging in mid-air as his transmission ends.
NOW they have my atTENtion and I am looking at Dan intently, trying to discern his thought process. SURELY...he WOULDn’t...after ALL THIS??!!
And then he looks at me, gets that GOOfy grin on his angelic chubby little face and, as he puts his right hand on his control wheel and wiggles it slightly to indicate he is taking control;
he simultaneously starts a left turn out of the traffic pattern to the north and says to me “GOOD!! Now let’s make some MONEY with this bird!!”
Rod is again coming over the speaker saying, “But, you know. If you’re not SURE....” and again leaves it hanging in mid-air. To which Dan responds. “No sweat. I’m already northbound!! We’ll be there in 15 minutes!! Got it COVERED!!”
Yes. Dan is SURE as Dan can be. I too am sure. Sure that DAN, into whose hands I have repeatedly placed my life for temporary transport and safekeeping, only to just as often as not regret it,.....well....I am SURE that Dan will teach me many, many valuable lessons in life.
With another heavy sigh and the slightest shake of my head I wonder to myself if I shall live long enough to make use of the new knowledge.
I note that already, from this altitude, the twinkling twenty or so street lamps of Noatak are visible in the distance through the cold sparkling crystal clear air from a distance of over twenty miles. Ruefully, I look back over my left shoulder at the jumble of passenger seats that have fallen back into a pile in the center of the aft cabin due to the extreme airmanship and manhandling of the controls in the thirty minutes or so.
Seven seats. Five “stand alone” with their seat belts mounted to the side frames and two seats on the “bench” along the port side of the cabin wall.
Seven LEGAL passenger seats I think to myself. So at MOST, even by Gunderson standards, we can’t POSSIBLY fit more than fourteen people BACK HERE....(I HOPE.)