My Most Instructional Moment

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luscombeThis is my humble contribution to the blogging in formation series.

For this month’s #blogformation post, Cap ‘n Aux astutely chose “my most instructional moment” as the theme. 

I had to think about this one for a few minutes. As a former instructor I feel like I could choose between either side of the coin – instructional for me or something interesting that occurred while providing instruction.
The reality is I have plenty of instructional stories to tell on myself so I spared my former students the indignity.
Probably the most notable was back in the early 90s, I was working at a small but thriving FBO. 
I was chief instructor, lineman, and all around gofer. I was young, single, and stuffing my logbook one hour at a time. 
On this particularly nice day, a friend showed up at the airport. She was adorable and I had been hoping she would take me up on my repeated promises for an airplane ride.
At the time we had two Cessna 150s, a Cessna 172, and a Luscombe for rent. I taught in all three and since the Luscombe was the coziest, um I mean, my favorite of the bunch, it was the obvious choice. It was also the cheapest to rent; being on an instructor’s salary, pro bono work had to be done sparingly.
The weather was beautifully clear and being that it was late afternoon this should prove to be a perfect local site seeing flight. I did a quick preflight, checked the log to see if anyone flew it since my last flight; no one had, which will be important later. 
We jumped in and took off. 
It was a gorgeous, not a ripple in the sky and calm winds, not your typical day in the windy plains of Oklahoma.
After a passable landing we taxied to parking and I bid my passenger an awkward goodbye.
Since we kept track of the fuel based on flight time, I decided to top it off before putting it away for the night.
As I was pumping the gas and daydreaming about how I might ask my newly minted copilot out to dinner, I noticed something curious. It was taking an inordinate amount of time for the single fuselage tank to fill? I glanced at the meter on the pump and simultaneously felt the blood drain from my face as I watched it count off to almost exactly the usable fuel capacity of the tank.
I had literally and unknowingly ran this airplane out of gas! 
What happened? How could my lovely flight have come so close to calamity? 
The Lucombe’s single fuselage fuel tank used a notoriously unreliable fuel gauge that floated in a tiny window behind the seats. We had long since adopted the method of ignoring the gauge and basing our fuel status on flight time between fill-ups (you really couldn’t see into the tank on preflight).
Unfortunately one of the other pilots had flown it the day prior and failed to note it in the  logbook, nor did he top it off after he was finished. I added to the failure by not seeing the tach time discrepancy when I looked in the book and of course, ignoring the fuel gauge.
So when you add up all of the benign errors that led up to this, and note that there was very little to trap them, you can see how I had literally almost joined that ranks of those whom I have harshly criticized.
This was indeed an “instructional” moment for me. Ever since that day, fuel is something I will always keep top-of-mind and never take for granted.
What is one of your most instructional situations? Share it below in the comments.


This week, six aviation bloggers will again join forces to provide a series of common posts. Think of us as “blogging in formation” (#blogformation) for the next six days. This month’s theme will be – Most Instructional Moment

You don’t want to miss this. Tune in to the specific blog listed below on the appropriate date and you’ll be glad you did.

And if you like what you see, share it with your friends! #blogformation

You can see the posts at:

The series runs from September 29th-October 5th, 2013.

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