Rock Ding!

As I began rolling down the runway, a little pop of dust materialized in the prop arch. Less than a blink of an eye, it was there and gone. It was an unmistakable thing. A quick signature, signing off a rock ding in the prop. Ding! Crap!

I hate getting a rock ding! I’d rather catch a communal disease. I made a mental note to double down on the post flight inspection and to be sure and notify the mechanic about the terrible gouge I knew now existed in the prop blade.

I flew off, there was no difference in performance, but in my mind I could see the tiny dent, or chip being shredded in the 2200 RPM disc of whirling air in front of me. I was nearly certain the propeller would shatter at any minute. I focused my eye on the approximate place in the propeller arch and scowled at it.

When the work was done, I looked the old bird over dreading the carnage of the propeller blade. There it was. About a quarter inch, right in the leading edge. I checked the other two blades but there was no further effect. Apparently it was a good solid home-run kind of hit.  It sure would have hurt if anyone had of been down range of that rock.

Turning away from my wounded prop I saw Joe the mechanic cussing at something in the hangar, wiping his hands on an old rag. “Hey Joe,” I hollered. He turned and glared at me as though I was some creature that just emerged from the woods. “What?” he answered.

I told him about the incident, apologized for being such a rotten pilot and asked him to take a look at it. He simply shrugged grabbed a couple files from the pile of tools on the bench and accompanied me to the flight line. “You want me to do it?” I asked. He rolled his eyes. “Naw, I’ll get it.”

He looked the injury over like an old doctor would inspect a boil in someone’s armpit. Then illustrated his expert aeronautical knowledge by exclaiming, “Looks like ya picked up a rock or somethin’.” I just nodded. He looked at it again and flipped his file over in his hand. “Well… It ain’t so bad.” He began dressing the dent out carefully, skillful hands smoothing out the blemish with artful precision. Then I asked him how his day was going.

You see, Joe was a single guy. His dog and his truck was just about all he had to keep him tethered to humanity. His truck wasn’t running good and his dog had eloped with the promiscuous little yellow lab’ mix down the street.

He explained the story of the love sick pup while sawing away at my propeller blade. His file strokes indicating the level of emotion with every turn of events. It seems the folks down the street aren’t very good dog parents and their floozy lab’ mix has been enticing Joe’s pit bull mix into a life of sin and depravity for some time. He pointed the file at me, shaking it like an instructor’s ruler about to bust my knuckles. “I even told them to keep that (female dog word) locked up when she was in heat, but they don’t care! I searched nearly all night for my dog!” I stood back a little. Hoping he would find his dog before my propeller was whittled down to nothing.

I interrupted his story only for  moment. “Wanna check the other ones?” I asked, thinking it might not be a bad idea to take a little from the others just to balance it out. He finished smoothing the knick and ran his hand along the length of the propeller. I figured he must have been getting closer to finding his dog by then.    

Joe drew his file up and down the length of the blade. The action made a musical, metallic sound, that is somehow pleasing to the primordial senses, “Ssschhhiiing… ssschhhiiing…” He explained how he finally located his runaway pooch and the sultry mistress who had shamelessly lured him away all the while honing the prop blades like he was putting a fighting edge on Excalibur. “Ssschhhiiing… ssschhhiiing…” I listened intently while watching his actions like a squire seeing a knight prepare for battle, but still keeping a worried eye on the receding paint line of the propellor face. The Gillette company would be doing good if they could get a guy like Joe to work for them. If they could keep him good and mad.

Joe’s dog was currently safely sequestered at home. He, of course, would be grounded for a spell to try and live down his bad dog excursion and could possibly be facing a visit to the veterinarian. The loose, lady dog down the street was grudgingly returned to her owner and warned to stay away from Joe’s dog. Or, else!

The propeller looked great. You could hardly tell if there had ever been any sort of rock ding anywhere along the length and tips of all three blades. It was thing of beauty. I shook Joe’s hand. “Thanks! I really appreciate it.” He smiled and nodded. “No problem, it’s what I do,” he said turning the propeller 360 degrees to evaluate his work. “But I’ll tell you what…” He warned, pointing his file again. “If that (female dog word) has puppies, it ain’t my fault!” Roger that, Joe. Roger that.

Fly well, and Stay safe!

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